Music is medicine for Edison High School student

FRESNO, Calif.

"I would know the days that I would get beat, not just a slap to the face, or on the butt, or something like that. I'd get kicked and things like that," said Gonzales.

His parents did drugs. His father was locked up because of his rage. Yet it was Gonzales who felt isolated.

"As a kid, you don't really know how to pick yourself back up, and you just kind of think this is how things are supposed to be," he said.

Mr. Hull, Gonzales's fifth grade teacher, encouraged him to play an instrument, and he was a natural.

"It was like all these people look at you, and all these people pay attention to you, and you're making something so beautiful and something that sounds so nice," said Gonzales.

Educators say exposure to the arts can be the best intervention for at-risk students.

"Kids who are in arts programs have higher test scores, they have better grades, they have better attendance, they have better behavior than kids who don't have the arts," said Bob Bullwinkel, Fresno County Office of Education Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator. "So it's absolutely essential that we include the arts for every kid, in every school, every day."

Several local school districts, including Fresno Unified and Central Unified, are increasing funding for arts education by millions. Creativity is king.

"If you want to talk about where the jobs are going to be in the 21st century, well they're going to be with Google, and with Pixar, and with Disney, and they're going to ask students to be web designers, and graphic designers, and animation artists, and filmmakers in addition to architects, engineers," said Bullwinkel.

Gonzales now plays seven instruments. He performs with Edison High's wind ensemble and the Tigers Marching Band -- earning awards and praise along the way. He wants to be a music teacher like Mr. Hull and Mr. Reynolds.

"It takes a lot of practice to go up in front of a group and to speak, so some students may find that music is their way to speak to others," said Corey Reynolds. "It builds team skills, it builds leadership skills." It also builds confidence.

"That's the beauty of the instrument is you fill up with air, and you get this puffed-out chest, and you have to stand up tall, and it's really hard not to think highly of yourself when you have a puffed-out chest and you're all the way standing up straight," said Gonzales.

Gonzales says he forgives his father, who is out of prison and has changed his ways. He adds that drugs are a thing of the past, and his family supports his passion for music -- music that is the best medicine for a bright young man, whose spirit remains unbroken.

"And it's so fantastic because people cheer for you, and you know you did your best, and it's just awesome," said Gonzales.

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