Harper Woods music students are given new instruments from nonprofit

The rock band at Harper Woods High School kicked off Wednesday's assembly  - but what the music students gathered here don't know is what's waiting for them behind the curtain.

Pretty soon, students are onstage, unwrapping their new instruments - it's all courtesy of a non-profit called "Music Will" that brings music education and instruments to students all over the country.

In this case, it partnered with Niagara Bottling in Shelby Township - to make wishes come true this Christmas.

"I just thank them so much for this - it's amazing," said Jabari Gillette, a vocalist. "We have great opportunities - this is just amazing - this is just great."

"It's absolutely amazing," said Oein Yallum, who plays the electric guitar. "I could not be any happier."

"We don't have that many things as it is, so this is really good - getting all this stuff from Niagara - I appreciate you and we love you," said Raleeah Donald, who plays bass guitar.

For Niagara Bottling - who is sponsoring seven schools nationwide this year - it's a great chance to give back.

"It's incredible - working for Niagara Bottling - it's a family-owned and operated manufacturing company gives us opportunities like this," said Travis Gripentrog, Niagra Bottling.  "And I'm grateful, but ultimately it's about the students back there. We all saw their faces - we heard the cheers. It's really rewarding."

And for the people who work with the students - and the instruments - they know the power of music is life-changing.

"Kids are really learning how to play the songs that resonate with them and are forming bands in their schools," said Janice Polizzotto.

Polizzotto is the interim CEO at Music Will. She says instruments are expensive and music programs are among the first to be slashed during budget cuts. But these programs are so much more than scales and sounds.

"Kids are telling me it helps them deal with their stress and their anxiety," she said. "When they're in a band, they finally have found their tribe - they have a sense of belonging now."

"I love how music allows them to have that energy to be channeled in a positive way," said Misty Sharp, band director. "To just help them to be well-rounded human beings and just great citizens now and also in the future."

Everything from the keyboard stands to the ukeleles and guitars will keep kids playing for years to come.

"It's huge for us and it's going to push our students forward in their trajectory," said Steven McGhee, Harper Woods superintendent.