RICHMOND, Calif. (KTVU) - For the first time in decades, music is filling the classroom at Richmond High School. Officials say the last time they had a consistent high-school band was in the 1980s.
It's been even longer since the school had a group playing classical music.
"This is the first year I have an orchestra. So we have a string orchestra again. The last one ended in '76," said Richmond High School Band Director Andrew Wilke.
So after decades of silence. Musical art is again changing lives, in ways some couldn't even imagine.
"It filled a void inside me to help me express myself through music and through that my depression has started to go away," said Richmond High senior Sebastian Servin.
"Lots of these kids deal with a lot of trauma. That's why programs like music are so important. It’s a way to release and escape from all of that," Wilke said.
Almost five years ago, Wilke started teaching music after school at Richmond High. Then, as more students showed interest, the district hired him and things started to fall into place.
Still, it was an uphill battle. "Having nothing to no instruments, no uniforms, everything is broken," said Richmond High senior Karla Nueze.
"We didn't have chairs and stands when I started. There was not much in here just a big mess in here," Wike said.
Thanks to an anonymous donor, and later money from the district, the program grew by leaps and bounds. Wilke said he's taken the music department from eight to 80 students within the last five years.
Now he plans to make it even bigger. But doing that is going to cost a lot of money.
"We're short on drum line equipment. We're short on orchestra equipment. Now one of my main goals at this school is to provide everything for these kids," said Wilke.
But that will cost around $20,000. Wilke plans to hold fundraisers. He added for the first time ever, some of his music classes moved from an after-school extracurricular activity to an actual elective where students can receive high school credit all the while making a difference.
"If we are going to have such a good band inside the school we should have credit with it," said Richmond High School Sophomore Nicolas Smith.
"It gives meaning to my life. I don't know where I would be without it. Whether I'd be in the streets or even worse," said Servin.
Wilke said he wants to keep this classroom as a safe space filled with music, joy, and laughter for students who are beating the odds.