History

The Bahama Village Music Program was created in 1999 to honor Ellen Sanchez, a beloved music teacher in Bahama Village whose retirement left a void in the community. A teacher for over fifty years, Mrs. Sanchez, who passed away in 2007 at 105 years old, brought music to countless children in this minority neighborhood. The Program’s founder, Robin Kaplan, utilized the momentum of Mrs. Sanchez’ stewardship to establish the Bahama Village Music Program. From modest beginnings in the closet of a school gym, the Program now resides in the Frederick Douglass Skills Center, a refurbished historic building owned by the City and located in the heart of Bahama Village.

The intent of the program is to provide free music education to the children of Bahama Village residents, a historic community of multi-generational Bahamian Conchs. The primary aim in establishing this program has been to create an effective learning environment for developing music skills and self-esteem, all while nurturing a strong sense of community among the young residents of Bahama Village. The music program’s participants, aged six to sixteen and now representing the entire Key West community, are encouraged to explore many aspects of music, from learning notes, rhythm, counting, tempo and style to perfecting their performance skills in piano, guitar, violin, percussion, steel pan, woodwinds, choir, dance, jump roping and juggling. Professional music educators, adult volunteers and high school students teach private and group lessons throughout the school year.

Students in the Bahama Village Music Program perform in free concerts and recitals for their families and residents of Key West throughout the year. These young performers sustain our Program’s belief that music can remove barriers, unite diverse cultures and uplift the spirits of our community.

Funding for the program comes from Board-sponsored fundraising activities, private donations and grants from organizations including the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, the Florida Cultural Affairs Department and the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys. The Bahama Village Music Program is a tax-exempt 501 (c) 3 charitable organization.