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16-year-old refugee forced to leave trumpet behind. Buffalo helps keep music alive.

Posted: 6:53 PM, Nov 15, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-15 18:54:35-05

Gabriel Mussafiri came to Buffalo two weeks ago after leaving Uganda. After finding a new place to live and school to attend, Buffalo helped him find something else new that makes him feel a little more at home.

The 16-year-old and his family are refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Gabriel learned to play trumpet while living in Uganda. He played in a marching band and with his church, but when his family came to the United States, his trumpet had to stay behind.

"I felt happy because I left the trumpet for someone in good hands and I also felt sad because I was leaving the trumpet and I had just played it for one week," Gabriel said.

One of the first things he wanted after finding a new home in Buffalo was to play the trumpet again.

"I like playing brass music and jazz music."

So his family's case manager at the International Institute of Buffalo (after helping the family get essentials like social security cards, housing and schooling figured out) set about finding a trumpet for the boy.

"I've worked with a lot of different families, but this was a first for me," Briana Neale said.

The Institute put out a call on Facebook and, within minutes, the city of good neighbors lived up to its name. Multiple people offered to give Gabriel their own trumpets. Some were even willing to go out and buy a new trumpet for the boy.

On Thursday, Lou Mang from Kenmore brought his trumpet to the Institute and handed it off to its new owner.

"Seeing Gabriel play it and listening to it--just pulling it out of the case and being able to play it like that," Mang said, afterwards. "It was really something. I was really impressed and pleased."

The trumpet used to belong to Mang's uncle. After giving the horn a chance, Mang decided to stick to the drums.

"I didn't really get that far with it," he admitted. "I stopped playing lessons. My wife didn't really like the noise I was making."

But, what seems like a small gesture of kindness to one man, meant the world to the 16-year-old who is just trying to find a piece of home here in Buffalo.

"I felt like I was still in Uganda," Gabriel said after playing his new instrument for the first time. "I thank the people of Buffalo for the good heart they have. They love people who they don't know and they care for them."

"Music is important in my life because it brings people together," Mang said. "It bridges a lot of cultures, a lot of different people and it's a universal language."

At the International Institute of Buffalo Thursday, no truer words could be spoken.

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