Greg Fernandes plans to open a music school

BROCKTON – Tucked away at the back of a North Middle School classroom is the seat of Greg Fernandes.

A native of Brockton, now published author, retired music teacher and youth mentor, he is keen to make a musical change in the lives of adults and children in Brockton.

Fernandes is creating the Rose Conservatory – a center for music education – to give people better access to resources.

“At the Rose Conservatory, I believe the power of music and learning can transform the lives of our children, especially children who look like me, speak like me and will experience the same things that I have experienced as young colored man in Brockton. ” says Fernandes, 43.

The center will offer dance lessons, mentors, West African percussion, a recording studio, instrument lessons and academic tutoring.

The Rose Conservatory, a nonprofit, is named in honor of his late mother Roseanna Fernandes, who was a professor of Latin music in Boston.

The conservatory is still in the early stages of planning and development. Currently, Fernandes is still looking for multiple spaces in Brockton. He plans to rent a 70,000 to 100,000 square foot building to house the conservatory.

But with the collaboration of two of his fellow mentors from the Champion City Mentor program, which is located at North Middle School – John C. Williams and Mario Lamarre – the vision is set to become a reality.

Champion City Mentor Program Founder and Director John C. Williams, Brockton Public Schools Social Outreach Specialist Mario LaMarre, Brockton Community Mentor, Musician and Author Greg Fernandes and Brockton Public Schools Community Mentor Dajuan Riley pose for a portrait at North Middle School Thursday, 14 January 2021. The four men work together to build the Rose Conservatory, a music conservatory in the heart of Brockton.

The goal is to have a sanctuary where Brockton residents of all ages can enjoy and learn music and the art of dance.

“The heart of my pioneering study program is to create together a culture of habit and perseverance. The culture will motivate and encourage students to become dedicated academics, compassionate leaders and skilled musicians, ”said Fernandes.

When he was a child there was no music conservatory in or near Brockton. Fernandes’ mother had to drive an hour for him to have a 40 minute violin lesson.

But for her it was worth it because it enriched her child’s mind with culture and substance, he said. Her dream was for her children to do something on their own with the tools she was able to provide them, Fernandes said.

“Growing up in Brockton, I felt like there was a wall built around the perimeter and we weren’t allowed to look beyond the wall. We were here and this is where we are going to stay, ”Fernandes said.

“My mother went out of her way to be a ladder for me and my sisters, which made it possible for us to look at the walls we felt confined to and realize that there are a lot more people, a lot more culture. , and there’s a lot more than what we see here. She encouraged us to explore, “he said.

Being a teenager navigating an urban community was tough, he said.

Fernandes faced many personal identity issues. He was bullied and beaten for playing violin at Brockton High School, he said. The atmosphere at Boston Latin was quite the opposite, he said. There he was commended for his excellence as a classically trained violinist.

Divided between two worlds, he found himself embarking on a self-destructive path.

“I was in fourth grade playing violin with twelfth graders and I was better than most of them. I was considered a star in the Latin school. It was cool to play the violin, it was cool to be smart and it was cool to be all of those things, ”Fernandes said.

“In ninth grade I transferred to Brockton High School and that’s when all my problems started. It wasn’t cool to play the violin anymore, it wasn’t cool to be smart, and it wasn’t cool to be cultured. I wanted to live the cool gangster lifestyle during the day, but then I would come home and play the violin at night.

Last year, Fernandes was kicked out of the BHS music program for behavioral issues, which gave him free time to engage in activities that had nothing to do with music.

“I wasn’t selling drugs out of necessity, but just because it was the cool thing to do, I wanted to fit in,” Fernandes said.

He thirsted to be accepted by his peers, he said.

But one day in 2000, when he was in his early twenties, he had an epiphany and realized he didn’t have to deal drugs to be cool, he said. Coming from an upper-middle-class two-parent household, made him think about all his decisions. His parents have worked all his life to create a solid foundation for him, he said.

“A lot of Brockton’s kids sell drugs out of sheer necessity and because they feel like it’s their only way out. I want to show them that with the right mentorship and guidance, there are many solutions, ”Fernandes said.

Then, after his mother died in 2010 from a brain aneurysm, he was inspired to take it to the next level and go to college to pursue his dream of studying music.

Fernandes wanted to be the pillar of success in his community that his mother fought her whole life for it to be. Four months later, at the age of 33, he enrolled at Bridgewater State University where he studied music and education. He took eight courses per semester to graduate in two years.

Finding music for Fernandes was like losing every piece of yourself and then someday tripping over them again.

Brockton musician and community mentor Greg Fernandes poses with his electric violin at North Middle School on Thursday, January 14, 2021. Fernandes is also an author, speaker, music teacher and conductor for the Boston Children's Chorus.  Fernandes is working on the opening of the Rose Conservatory in partnership with Brockton Community Mentors and Brockton Public Schools.

“Music has always been my muse and my missing piece. All my life I have been beaten and told I was no good. It’s sad that I spent most of my teenage life running away from the one thing I was really good at. It’s amazing to live in my truth and not hide my musical abilities. I want to show these kids all the amazing things they can do, ”he said.

In his book “Excuse Limit Zero” he tells an uncensored story of how he overcame his troubled childhood and blossomed into a young mentor. Many students can relate to similar issues, he said.

Fernandes understands the various challenges that students who live in Brockton may face on a daily basis.

Some children live in poverty, homelessness, parents unable to care for them and many other socio-economic problems. Then these children have to sit down in class and learn despite all the problems that are happening at home.

Fernandes understands the need for a safe space for these children to forget about their problems and learn music and art.

He wants young people to look to the conservatory for mentorship and help instead of acting in school and looking to the streets like he once did.

Fernandes’ goal is for the Conservatory of Roses to be open by the end of the year.

He said he thinks there is a great need in Brockton for a place like the Rose Conservatory, with educators, mentors and staff of color.

When students see someone who represents their past in a higher position, it gives them hope for a better future, he said.

Williams, who has known Fernandes for many years, said he saw Fernandes flourish, so much so that Williams invited him to teach an African drum class for the Champion City Mentor program, which he founded. .

“As I’ve watched Greg grow up and see his transitions as a teacher and go through a lot of personal struggles and see the energy he puts into improving the community, it’s amazing, it’s refreshing.” Williams said.

“I’ve been doing this for over a decade and have worked and built a pretty good team of people. It’s rare to find someone who matches your energy, passion and commitment to reforming the environment we live in. Greg is a special person. The Rose Conservatory will be a special place for the children of Brockton.

To support the Conservatory of the Rose contact Greg Fernandes on his websitehttps://gregfernandes.com/contact


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