Chicago West Community Music Center (CWCMC) celebrated Black History Month, Feb. 9, with a program featuring performances by their students. The afternoon reception was held at the Garfield Park Fieldhouse Golden Dome, 100 N. Central Park Ave. The program’s main feature was a film, created and produced by students, called 40 Special Parks. CWCMC students researched and paid tribute to 40 parks in the city of Chicago named after African Americans. The project was the idea of Chicago Park District Director Mrs. Regina Hayes, who brought it to CWCMC staff. The students filmed, edited, arranged the music, as well as acted in the short film that featured Chicago parks such as Bessie Coleman Park, 5445 S. Drexel (Coleman was first African-American pilot), Nat King Cole Park, 361 E. 85th St., and Nancy Jefferson Park, 3101 W. Fulton (Jefferson was a well-known community activist, nurse and civic leader on Chicago’s West Side.

Prior to the video presentation, the audience was treated to a performance by flutist Zechary Stigger. Howard Sandifer, president of CWCMC, accompanied him on the piano.

CWCMC is devoted to improving the lives of young people through music instruction. Michael Ross and Paul Holtz are two staff members who use their talents to instruct young musicians. Howard Sandifer and his wife Darlene started CWCMC in 1999. It was formerly known as Lawndale Community Music Center. Over the years, Howard and Darlene have struggled to showcase the gifted and talented young people on Chicago’s West Side.

Michael Ross was responsible for writing the music and putting the story together for the film.

“Doing this project brought a lot of enlightenment to myself as well as the students,” he said. “The performance is about parks that were named after African-American people, and now when we begin to look at the parks, we will look at them differently. We really appreciate Ms. Regina Hayes, district park director, bringing the project to us. She let us put our spin on it, and my idea was to actually show what the parks mean and represent.”

The audience included Howard Sandifer’s mother, Sarah; her daughter, Danielle Miller; WVON President/CEO Melody Spann Cooper and Rep. Deborah Graham (D-78th).

“We are excited about plans for Chicago West Music Center as we go into the year 2008,” Howard said. “One of the most exciting programs we are hoping to have is a collaboration with Berkley College. The final application process will take place in April, where they will have to make a site visit. Once that is completed, we hope to be able to announce a new program that will be the only one in the Midwest. CWCMC/Berkley College will be able to provide a jazz programming curriculum to our high school students.”

Mary Beth Morehouse, a church member and friend of the Sandifers, provided refreshments.

“Our church, Willowcreek, has neighborhood table groups and we all got together and did the food today. We’ve been looking for a way to support Howard and Darlene, and those of us who are close to them really believe this is about social transformation. It’s just a magnificent program and has the capacity to change so many lives.”

Instructor Paul Holtz pointed out, “My class was the class that produced the video we watched today. They shot it on a camera, and they helped write the script with the Sandifers. The editing involved and acting were students from my class, so we thought it turned out pretty good.”

To contact or help support Chicago West Community Music Center, call 708/386-5315, or e-mail: dsandifer