Music Teacher Heathcliff Sygapolho Gives Free Violin Lessons To Children

Heathcliff Sygapolho gives free violin lessons to inspire confidence in the next generation.

Every day Sygapolho spends two hours teaching at the Prince Joshua Avitto Community Center. He has been a teacher for 20 years and played the bass growing up, but he learned the violin to better reach and motivate his students.

“What I know with the instrument, usually the violin and music trigger the left side of the brain so if they can trigger that mathematical [skill] or the critical thinking skills by playing an instrument, and reading-wise it helps them to focus from lines to lines, so I think that’s a tool that they could use to like excel in their academics,” he explained.

The community center was named in honor of a six-year-old who was fatally stabbed inside a house complex in 2014. East New York has one of the highest violent crime rates in the city.

Sygapolho doesn’t expect every student to become a professional, but he keeps a love of music as a guide to each lesson.

“Music to me is—it’s love. It’s reasoning, and it’s motivation,” he explained. “Motivation, because like a lot of, for me, music has taken me a lot of places that I wouldn’t have been to and meet people that I wouldn’t have met.”