MILWAUKEE — Dinora Marquez founded the Latino Strings Program at the United Community Center 19 years ago, with a dream to give back to the blooming Latino community.
"I arrived in this country when I was 10 years old. I didn’t speak the language and the instrument became my voice," said Marquez as she held her violin tightly.
Each year, the program teaches hundreds of Latino students ranging from ages 5 to 18 years old. Marquez uses the unique opportunity to communicate and conduct with her students in both Spanish and English.
"It's something even as simple as saying a child’s name correctly that can make a huge difference for a child. Just to know who they are, where they belong, and also just to empower them to reclaim that in front of other teachers," said Marquez.
Back in 2017, Marquez was able to take an ensemble to the White House to perform for President Barack Obama for a celebration of the Arts in America event.
String by string, Marquez has discovered how deeply these instruments have impacted the Latino youth community in Milwaukee academically.
"Every year, the valedictorian or salutatorian of our 8th-grade class is always someone from the strings program."
According to Arts Wisconsin, students with four years of arts or music exposure in high school average higher on the SAT by 100 points in the verbal and math portions.
Taking it further than academics, students have realized music has healing qualities after practicing and performing virtually for a year.
"Considering there are no performances, it kind of reaffirmed the value of music. We’re not just there for the performance - it’s also for us to come together, practice, and just talk," said Enrique Aldape