Ric Wilberg has a little bit of camp director and a little bit of grandfather in him, as he gives a tour of the classes in progress at his neighborhood music school Joyful Noise. That din of learning is reflected in the name of his school is all around him. For five years, Joyful Noise has offered free individual music lessons. If a student doesn't have an instrument to play on, they'll let him borrow one.
Wilberg knows the stories of his kids — where they're from and what's going on with their families — and of the volunteer teachers. As he walks from room to room talking about them, his respect and pride are unmistakable. He points out one student who, after his interest was kindled at Joyful Noise, auditioned for and was accepted at the Cleveland School of the Arts.
Wilberg himself is not a musician. A retired minister, he started the school with five volunteer teachers and 13 kids in donated space in the Disciples of Christ church on West Boulevard. "I kept hearing people at community meetings wishing they could get a trumpet, or lessons," he explains. "People work a job or two, or two and a half, and they have to put up a roof and bread on the table, and they can't afford extras."
The initial group of students has grown to 160, and he's had a steady stream of teachers, from the occasional conservatory-trained player to longtime, self-taught musicians. The current teacher roster stands at about 25. They currently operate at St. Luke Lutheran Church at West 86th and Sauer.
After five years, the school throws its first benefit this weekend, with food, drinks and, of course, music, at Massimo da Milano. "It's grown beyond what I ever thought," says Wilberg.