INGLEWOOD, Calif. — It's a big day for a little guy, as 8-year-old Anthony Hill prepares to play violin in front of a crowd for the first time.
"I feel kinda nervous but not that nervous," he said. "I just need to pluck a few strings, and I should be ready."
Anthony said he's always loved music, and he even taught himself to play the ukulele.
"I feel excited when I listen to music," he said. "I feel like I can express myself in my own type of way."
So when his mom, Krystal Hill, enrolled him in Inglewood Unified School District's first-ever summer band camp she was surprised how quickly he took to the violin.
"I would've never thought to give my son a violin," she said. "But for someone to offer him the opportunity to learn music and give him different options to choose from that allow for him to think about what he wants to explore for himself. I think that's a powerful tool for our students."
In less than a month, Anthony and 37 other elementary and middle school students learned to read music and play a new instrument, thanks to nonprofit Musicians At Play.
The foundation partnered with a local music store, Bertrand's, to provide instruments such as violin, cello and saxophone for Inglewood students to use during in-person lessons and practice at home.
Before turning in their instruments, students showcased their skills at a recital for family and teachers.
John Acosta, the program's director, has been in the music industry since he was 17-years-old. He went from having a record deal as a singer and songwriter to becoming the president of the LA Musicians Union.
Now he's on a mission to change the lack of diversity in recording studios and symphonies by bringing tuition-free music education to needy communities, such as South LA.
"One of the things we really feel passionate about in MAP, is building that career path so that these students not only build a foundation to be better students academically," Acosta said. "If they really want to pursue a career in music, we can be that catalyst."
Studies show there's been an 86% decline nationwide in music education for people of color in the public school system.
The school district is using this band camp as a pilot to expand into a permanent year-round program, and Anthony said he would love that.
He said learning a new instrument has taught him responsibility, teamwork and most of all, he has "learned that I'm pretty confident in what I do."