Some Kind of Spark Motivates

Music takes each of us to a different place. For some, it’s motivating. For others it’s comforting. And, if you happen to be a music student struggling to achieve the mastery of a particular instrument, it can be totally intimidating and frustrating. This is the meat of Ben Niles’ wonderful documentary, Some Kind of Spark, which focuses on five gifted inner city kids who attend The Julliard School of Music’s Advancement Program (MAP)–a Saturday outreach program in New York for kids from surrounding communities that are underserved in the arts.


What one comes away with in spades is how important exposure to the arts really is, how lacking in this area some of our school districts are, and how a wonderful teacher–and there are many at Julliard with compassion and patience–can make all the difference in the world, not to mention what the take away is for a child interpersonally.

According to Gretchen Pusch, who taught flute for 21 years at Julliard, participation in the program is not necessarily designed to create professional musicians. Rather, the hope is that the skills these students will learn–focus, frustration tolerance, working with others in a group–will equip them with skills that can help them through their own personal journeys and challenges in life, whether they choose to pursue music as a career or not.

What makes the film all the more poignant and is underscored in particular with a young boy named Pete, originally from Haiti, who comes to the program after his family has endured the recent earthquake, is the understanding of how important parental involvement–or lack thereof–is for any child’s development. It is quite plain to see that coming from an immigrant family, or a broken home or one where it is difficult to make ends meet, adds that additional layer of difficulty for those striving to learn, find the time to practice and ultimately succeed. This does not mean that kids aren’t resilient or that they do not reach their goals. But what the film accomplishes is the fact that creating some kind of spark early on in life, especially if it involves music and the arts, can be transformative and life changing.


Ben Niles and Gretchen Pusch

Written by MFF Blogger Ann Forstenzer