West Kendallite inspires Edison chorus to be heard

Raiders Chorus
Desiree Rodriguez of Leadership Miami hands out new uniforms to the Edison Senior High Red Raiders Chorus on Wednesday. Pictured at right is freshman Emmylou Morency, 15.


Desiree Rodriguez of West Kendall and her colleagues from Leadership Miami walked into the Miami Edison High School music classroom and the students erupted in applause and cheers.

No, Rodriguez is not a famous musician. She and her team from Leadership Miami raised money for the Edison Red Raider Chorus – which debut this year after more than a 10-year absence. And now it was uniform unveiling day. The students were excited to see the uniforms they had designed for their upcoming performances. The boys, who wore red pants and jacket, and the girls, who donned a black and red sequined sweetheart top and black skirt, strutted around the classroom showing off their new fancy uniforms.

Sponsored by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Miami is a nine-month program designed to develop emerging professionals into community leaders through networking, monthly educational sessions, and community service. Rodriguez, the chief of staff for the Office of the Senior Vice President of External Relations at Florida International University, was nominated for Leadership Miami by her supervisor.

Rodriguez said she enjoys the Leadership Miami program because it exposes her to new things, and though she was born and raised in Miami, she has learned a lot about the history of the city. The most meaningful part of her experience has been working with the students at Edison, she said.

“I think the opportunity to work with kids on the other side of town who I would have never been exposed to has been the most touching part; the most real part, to see the fruits of what we’ve done and see them in uniforms, to see them performing,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez’s Leadership Miami team chose to sponsor the student chorus after learning that they were in their first year. Edison High has not had a chorus in about ten years, and after students year repeatedly requested one, the administration decided to bring it back.

The Leadership Miami team has raised more than $21,000 through happy hours, corporate and private donations, and selling tickets to a Florida Marlins’ game where the students performed the National Anthem. They have paid for a trip to Daytona Beach, taken the students to the music schools at the University of Miami and Florida International University, visited Esteban Studios, and arranged for a performance in front of hundreds of people in Little Haiti. Next, the funds will pay for students to compete nationally in New Orleans this Thurs., April 29 through Sun., May 2.

Jonathan Joseph, 17, never thought a chorus would be successful at Edison. “I didn’t think that many students would enjoy singing,” Jonathan said. “I thought that they would think it was stupid, but the number of students we have here is just phenomenal. For us to expand our vernacular in music, and progress as student-musicians is just great.”

Leadership Miami has done more than help the chorus pay for field trips and uniforms, they have changed the attitudes of the students in a way similar to the hit TV show, Glee. “When I first came [to Edison High], the students didn’t care,” Jonathan said. “It was just so dull and I felt out of place. I thought there was a need for a change and Leadership Miami has been that change. The kids are more involved, we’re more focused.”

Jonathan and the other students understand that performing and traveling with the chorus is a privilege and they must do well in their other classes to participate.

Chorus Director Robert Phillips has been teaching music for 20 years. Although it is his first year at Edison, he said he was excited to have the opportunity to start a new chorus and build the program from the ground up. “Vocal music is my love and choral music is my passion,” Phillips said.

The popularity of the elective class grew throughout the school year. What began with 45 students has grown to 75. After asking the students to dream big for next year, Phillips received suggestions of trips to places like New York City and Atlanta, but when one student suggested China, Phillips said: “I’m going to shoot for the stars and where we hit is great but, we are going to shoot for China.”

Before joining the chorus, Daniel Imani Beaufort, 19, had different plans for his future: “I was going to go into neuroscience at FIU and before I knew I wanted to sing, but I didn’t think it would be something that I would go to college for or something to study.”

“Once I got a taste of the chorus, it was like I knew this was something I would enjoy doing in high school, college, and even after as a job,” Beaufort said.

Beaufort received a scholarship to attend Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach where he will study music. He still wants to study neuroscience, but after he has finished his music education.

“The sky’s the limit,” Rodriguez said. “Regardless of the struggles you have, your economic status, regardless of anything you face, if you work hard you can achieve something.”

For West Kendall Today

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