BUFFALO, N.Y. — Music is a big part of arts education for children.

According to the Arts Education Data Project, 68.7% of students in New York state were involved in at least one music class, but that doesn’t mean all students are being exposed to the music they’d like to learn.

“We get to do some really cool music," said HHC's Guitar Initiative instructor Tom Torrisi. "We get to be creative with what we teach them, which is nice.”

The guitar isn’t usually an instrument you see in the classroom.

“You can probably take band instruments or orchestra instruments [in school], maybe if your school even offers that to begin with, and some don't," Torrisi explained. "But if you're not interested in those kinds of things, then there's not really anything for you to do.”

Private lessons can be pricey.

“Maybe between $40 and $50 an hour,” Torrisi estimated.

That’s why professional musician Torrisi signed on to teach at the Guitar Initiative. Instruments, cases, music books and more are all offered for free.

“I learned a lot since I've been here," said Jamari Sturgis, a student taking part in the program. "It feels actually really good, learning a new song.”

It offers kids a great environment to learn.

“Yeah, I just like rhythm, and stuff ... all the instruments,” added Malak Bontzolakes, another student. “I like playing music and my dad made music and a couple of my friends make music as well, so maybe I can use this for something in the future.”

The program is sponsored by the Hispanic Heritage Council of WNY.

“We've had them play traditional songs from Central and South America in their concerts and learn those tunes that they may or may not have heard from home or what their parents may or may not know from home and then that kind of gets them connected with that while also learning the guitar,” Torrisi explained.

The classes are for everyone though, with a focus on students ages 13-16.

“It brings us together like as a culture. All the things that have come, like the guitar," said Bontzolakes. "Everybody just comes together, we all play as one. Sounds good.”

The students grow more with each class.

“You see someone go from just learning the first few notes to playing something that sounds like music," recalled Torrisi. "It is really like a big moment.”

They learn lessons that go beyond the classroom.

“That's a really important skill to learn — how to cooperate and teamwork," said Torrisi.

The kids do perform their pieces and meet other professional musicians throughout the year, perhaps inspiring them in a new way.

“By the time we're done with even one semester, we'll have them playing a few songs," said Torrisi. "They notice that difference and we notice that difference and I think that really gives them a lot to be proud of.”

Registration for the Guitar Initiative typically opens in July for classes that start in September.

There are plans in the works to try and team up with the Buffalo Public School District to expand the reach of the initiative to more kids.

For more information, click here.

You can also follow the program on Facebook and Instagram.