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Chad Bernstein, a premiere Latin, funk and jazz artist, has played with the likes of Shakira, Pharrell, Jennifer Hudson and Pitbull. But most notably he channels his artistic passion into helping at-risk kids overcome the pull of Miami’s rough streets by training them in the music business. On that sweet note he was named a CNN Hero.

Bernstein’s nonprofit, Guitars Over Guns, puts musical instruments and mixing boards into the hands of middle-school students in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. The group pairs students with professional musicians and since 2008 the program has benefitted more than 225 students with free instrument lessons and mentoring.

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Mentors develop a close relationship with the teens and get to know their families. In addition, the kids receive tutoring and social services. By the end of the year, they are performing on stage and recording in Chad’s studio.

During Bernstein’s own childhood he was bullied and suffered from self-esteem issues. Playing the trombone gave him a sense of identity. Bernstein says his group has seen more than a 90 percent increase in academic performance and school attendance by participants.

One of the Guitars Over Guns pupils excitedly announced that he could do anything now, “even become a doctor.” The grateful young man told CNN, “Without this program, I’d be in jail or dead.”

The 30-year-old brass master said there’s an amazing sense of pride when a kid gets a round of applause on stage, after working hard.

Having received his doctorate from the University of Miami, the “Trombone Doctor,” as he is called, has found the cure-all for youth on the street:  “Music is the most important tool we have in reaching these kids.”

(WATCH the video below from CNN)

Photo Credit: CNN Heroes Facebook

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