Independent Lens “For Once in My Life”

For Once in My Life is 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. The film follows the band, made up of workers at the Goodwill Industries center in Miami, as their determination, talent, and dedication takes them from the rehearsal room to the concert stage. For Once in My Life will premiere on the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning series Independent Lens , hosted by America Ferrera, on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011 at 10 p.m. on Eight, Arizona PBS.

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.

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