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Roberta Guaspari returns to her musical roots
Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Roberta Guaspiri teaching class in Harlem.
Roberta Guaspari teaching.

One of SUNY Fredonia's most inspirational graduates, Roberta Guaspari, will be the featured guest at the School of Music's annual convocation on Friday, May 9. A renowned advocate for music education in public schools, Ms. Guaspari's story as a violin teacher who fights for her Harlem students has been told to audiences the world over via the feature film, "Music of the Heart," and the documentary film, "Small Wonders." 

Her two-day visit to Fredonia will include Friday's lunch with string faculty, a brief tour of Mason Hall, the award convocation, and dinner at the Alumni House. On Saturday, she will have breakfast with the School of Music Advisory Board and then meet students in Mason Hall from 10 a.m. to noon.

The 1969 music alumna will be the featured guest at the School of Music's annual Convocation starting at 3 p.m. in Rosch Recital Hall. The spring event is a tradition of honoring the most outsanding students in the school, inducting students into honor societies, and announcing scholarships and awards. This year, more than 40 awards will be presented. The event is free and open to the public.

To herald Ms. Guaspari's return to campus, the School of Music is holding "Movie Night" in Rosch Recital Hall on Tuesday, May 6, starting at 6:30 p.m. when "Small Wonders" and "Music of the Heart" will be screened. The event is free and all are welcome.

In 1991, 150 kids in three East Harlem public elementary schools were about to lose their cherished violin program as a result of budget cuts. Working with parents, other teachers and volunteers, their violin teacher, Ms. Guaspari, founded Opus 118 Harlem School of Music, a private, nonprofit organization, to save the program and to continue to serve public school students in low-income areas.  

Ms. Guaspari’s passionate struggle to keep music instruction alive in Harlem's public schools has inspired two films: "Small Wonders," a 1996 documentary produced by Allan Miller, and Miramax’s 1999 feature film, "Music of the Heart," starring Meryl Streep; both films received Academy Award nominations.

The New York City Schools Chancellor restored funds for Ms. Guaspari and for two more Opus violin teachers. Today, Opus serves in six New York public schools.  Visit the  Opus 118, the Harlem School of Music website.

After graduating from SUNY Fredonia, she completed her Master of Arts degree in Music Education from Boston University School of Fine Arts. She holds honorary doctorates from the New England Conservatory of Music, the State University of New York and Mount Holyoke College.


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