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Local music instructor teaches troubled youth tunes

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“That’s one thing that is universal, the love of music,” says Phil Oliveira, seated. He and Linda Oliveira run The Freedom in Music Project. They practice Saturday at the Chaves County Juvenile Detention Center with local guitar instructor Brandon Pea before a Christian blues concert for the youth. Their nonprofit donated six guitars, curriculum books and equipment to the center as well, while Pea has agreed to teach at the center. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Music has come to the Chaves County Juvenile Detention Center, and the people behind the gift hope it will bring purpose and meaning to troubled lives.

A donation of six Silvertone acoustic guitars, curriculum books and ancillary equipment was made to the detention center Saturday by The Freedom in Music Project, a nonprofit run by Phil and Linda Oliveira of Albuquerque.

The couple also performed a Christian blues concert for the detention center youth, joined by local guitar instructor Brandon Pea.

Pea, who met the couple at one of their annual fundraisers, has agreed to give lessons at the detention center on a regular basis. 

“We are doing this just to turn the youth to different ways to express themselves,” said Phil Oliveira, “and more importantly to bring mentors in to mentor some of these young people, because 95% don’t have fathers and 85% don’t have family.”

Pea is a master’s degree student with a teaching certificate who gives private lessons to local students as well as to oversee students via the internet. He said he will work with the detention center youth as much as schedules, interest and staff will allow.

“It will be one time a week at least and then I’ll kind of play it from there to see how it goes,” he said.

Phil Oliveira was once a professional blues band player who said he had a career-ending injury 11 years ago that has resulted in chronic pain. He said the music program and the work he does with kids has saved him from taking his own life.

His wife said she felt called to the ministry even before she met Phil 10 years ago. “I just heard a message saying, ‘You are going to help people in distress using music,” said Linda Oliveira, “and I went, ‘What? I haven’t played since high school.’”

Over the past nine years, the nonprofit has provided more than 92 guitars to detention centers, recovery centers and transitional treatment facilities in this state and Texas. The Freedom in Music Project has been honored many times by the city of Albuquerque and various Albuquerque groups and also has received an award from the New Mexico State Commission for Community Volunteerism.

“It has been a blessing, but it has not been easy,” said Phil Oliveira. “The most difficult thing to do is raise money in New Mexico.”

The organization will hold its sixth annual Blues and Brews Festival in Albuquerque on Saturday. The festival raises money by selling raffle tickets for guitars and sometimes by selling guitars signed by famous musicians.

Pete Hernandez, operations lieutenant for the Chaves County Juvenile Detention Center, said that the facility, which has eight detainees now, tries to offer youth many different types of activities, including educational programs, creative writing opportunities and arts projects. The programs are not only meant to improve youth’s lives but also provide incentives for good behavior.

“We try to do something every few months,” he said. “We are always trying to think outside of the box.”

More information about the nonprofit and the festival is available on the group’s website, thefreedominmusicproject.com.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.