“I strongly believe that music education is for everyone, regardless of background and income,” Dr. Daniel Gasse declared.

That is why the Forest Park cellist and his wife Sarah founded the Music For Life Foundation. Gasse and other local musicians are putting on a “World Music Festival” to raise money for the foundation’s youth scholarships.

This unique concert will take place on March 4, at 7:30 p.m. at First United Church in Oak Park. It will feature folk and classical music from four continents.

The local talent on display includes the Gasses on cello and violin, with Forest Park flutist Eugenia Moliner completing the Opus 3 Trio. The Farmers Market Band will play American folk music and Oak Parker Sidy Sankhare and a group from Senegal will demonstrate African drumming. Another Forest Parker, John Milan, will perform selections of Mexican and Irish tunes on harmonica.

The proceeds from the concert will not only make it possible for underprivileged kids to take music lessons; its variety brings back pleasant memories for Gasse. Growing up in Argentina, he and his siblings received classical music instruction at an institute. When they got home, it was a different story.

“After dinner, my father would grab two guitars and say, ‘It’s time to stop talking and start singing.’ We would sing folk songs all night.”

So this music instructor is anything but a stuffy traditionalist. “I’m teaching the cello, not a particular kind of music. Once you learn the instrument, you can play all different styles ” gypsy, tango, bluegrass ” you don’t have to play Bach and Beethoven. We teach techniques ” the repertoire is up to the students.”

Indeed, the Gasse School of Music recitals always feature a variety of ethnic music. “We’ve done Japanese numbers and music with Middle Eastern instruments.” For this special concert, Gasse is taking the ethnic mix to another level, displaying the cultural diversity that is found at a grassroots level in the area.

The Music for Life Foundation awards 4-5 scholarships per year. The scholarship money can be used at any school. It helps children who otherwise couldn’t afford lessons, like some of the students Gasse met at Chicago’s Duke Ellington School.

“I taught cello there,” Gasse warmly recalled, “The kids loved it. They would skip other classes to attend my class.”

Gasse first got the idea for the foundation from watching a film about a similar group of underprivileged kids from New York, who learned the Suzuki method of violin.

“That’s when I began promoting the idea of children receiving lessons even if they can’t afford it,” he said.

Tickets to the concert are tax-deductible donations. Plus, an iPod Nano will be raffled off. A more lasting gift will be the memory of an unforgettable concert and the satisfaction of giving young musicians the priceless opportunity to learn.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.