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Black History 210: Conductor uses music to spread positive message

Roderick Leonard uses his impressive musical gifts to help children across San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO — Passion for musical education runs deep in Roderick Leonard.

"For me, I just want to share the knowledge that I have and bring it to all the kids, whether they are African American kids or Hispanic kids, or whatever their race may be."

He works full time music teacher at Texas Military Institute, but has been a conductor for the San Antonio Youth Wind Ensemble (SAYWE) in his spare time for the last 11 years.

SAYWE is a St. Philips College program that brings together talented students from school districts across the city, for opportunities to practice and perform at special events. They also have a rehearsal space at St. Philips College.

"It is a group of students, kind of like a community group," says Leonard of the ensemble, which serves as a supplement to the musical education they receive at their schools.

In speaking about Black History Month, Leonard talked about the people who inspired him.

"Of course there is Martin Luther King. You have to give respect to him for this particular month. I have to believe that he is very instrumental, he is the reason for the season for this Black History Month."

Leonard also reflected on the lessons passed down to him from previous generations in his family.

"There was my grandmother and great-grandmother, and I was very fortunate enough to be alive when she was still alive. And she would tell me the horrible stories of things that would happen to her when she was a young girl...and now is a time that we can change those things."

He says his parents and grandparents taught him to use music to spread a message of hope and positivity.

"I tell the students, whenever you are upset, pick up your instrument and play those feelings out," Leonard says. "The power of music no matter what form it is in, whether it is large or small can chip all the ice away from people's hearts at times."

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