Independent Lens "For Once in My Life" on WXXI-TV

Thu, 01/12/2012 - 8:00pm

Caption: The fourth standing ovation and final encore at the concert for the US Mayors convention held at the Adrienne Arscht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.

Credit: Courtesy of Mark Moorman

Made up of 28 musicians and singers who all have severe mental and physical disabilities, the Spirit of Goodwill Band is a raucous home away from home where members are free to display their talent, humor and tenacity.

Independent Lens “For Once in My Life,”airing Thursday, January 12 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT 21.1/cable 1011 and 11), takes an infectious, expectation-defying look at the inspiring Spirit of Goodwill band, a unique assembly of singers and musicians, all with a wide range of mental and physical challenges, who share an uncanny gift for music, joy, and friendship. Following the band, made up of workers at the Goodwill Industries center in Miami, the film captures their determination, talent, and dedication, from the rehearsal room to the concert stage. This program is part of WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies' annual Dialogue on Disability: The Herman & Margaret Schwartz Community Series, which is a week-long outreach initiative designed to stimulate community dialogue about the perspectives and abilities of people with disabilities.

The 29 talented members of the Spirit of Goodwill Band are all living with varying degrees of physical and mental challenges, but you’d never know it by listening to them. The pianist, Christian, is blind and autistic; lead singer Terry never fully recovered from being dropped by his father when he was 14 months old; and drummer Sam’s development was stunted by his mother's efforts to hide her pregnancy. With the enthusiastic encouragement of Dennis Pastrana, president and CEO of Goodwill South Florida, and their dedicated music director, Javier Peña, the members of the Goodwill Band have grown from one piano into an orchestra with voice, percussion, keyboards, and a brass section. They work tirelessly and their musical success has transformed and enriched all aspects of their lives.

For Once in My Life follows the band as they progress from concerts at nursing homes to larger public performances, and we get to know the members, meet their families, and visit their homes. They are “discovered” by Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and music impresario Emilio Estefan, and the band is invited to play the concert of a lifetime — the U.S. Mayor’s Convention
being held that year in Miami.

It’s a dream gig for the Spirit of Goodwill, with an audience of over 1000 people, made up of mayors from 440 American cities, their families, and special guests. The film follows the band as they prepare for this great honor, an arduous process that becomes a test of patience, compassion, and faith. The film concludes with a performance that leaves the audience cheering. Winner of the Audience Award at the SXSW Film Festival and the Audience Choice Award in the Sarasota & Nashville Film Festivals, For Once in My Life is an eye-opening look at the tremendous potential of people with disabilities and the power of music to transform lives.

To learn more about the film, visit the For Once in My Life interactive companion website (pbs.org/for-once-in-my-life), which features detailed information on the film, including an interview with the filmmaker and links and resources pertaining to the film’s subject matter. The site also features a Talk back section, where viewers can share their ideas and opinions, preview
clips of the film, and more.

Made up of 28 musicians and singers who all have severe mental and physical disabilities, the Spirit of Goodwill Band is a raucous home away from home where members are free to display their talent, humor, and tenacity. This film challenges preconceived notions of what it means to be disabled.

Dialogue on Disability is a broadcast intiative that celebrates the amazing lives of people with disabilities. It runs January 8-15th and is made possible thanks to support from the Fred L. Emerson Foundation.