The song was upbeat, but the kids had tears in their eyes.
As the students of Children of Promise Preparatory Academy in Inglewood played their favorite tune — Queen's "We Will Rock You" — on clarinets and trumpets, the music teacher they loved so much wasn't there.
In the audience instead was his weeping family.
At Children of Promise, a charter elementary school with a fledgling music program, students are still coping with the loss of their biggest fan, music teacher Benny Golbin. He was killed near the school in January when a suspected street racer lost control of his car in midday traffic on Crenshaw Boulevard and sheared off the top of Golbin's car.
The school paid homage to him Thursday, renaming its music classroom the Benny Golbin Music & Arts Center and announcing a scholarship in his name. Administrators vowed that the music program, which Golbin helped start, would continue.
"It's still new to us to have a music department," Principal Trena Thompson said in a morning ceremony. "But we know it's something our kids need. We know it's something that teaches them discipline. And it's something we're fighting to keep."
The school started its music program three years ago with donated instruments so families wouldn't have to shoulder the cost, Thompson said. Every student takes music classes.
Golbin, 36, taught trumpet and clarinet to fourth- through seventh-graders. His family on Thursday donated his personal baby grand piano to the school, with his sister, Carli Golbin, attaching a small plaque above the keys: "In memory of Benny Golbin, 1980-2016."
Hearing his young students play, she said, recalled her childhood, when she and her brother performed on stage, and nothing but the music mattered.
"It just seemed appropriate that his piano be here with his kids," she said softly.
Students performed in a room decorated with music notes and treble clefs. A boy and girl waltzed to a recording of Golbin on saxophone, playing a song he wrote for his sister's wedding. Nine-year-old Aaliya Allen-Wilson, in a lacy white dress and a pair of Mary Janes, clutched a microphone in both hands, singing lyrics to Mariah Carey's "Hero": "And then a hero comes along, with the strength to carry on. And you cast your fears aside, and you know you can survive."
Students read messages for Golbin: "The first time I learned a note, I was actually fussing and having a hard time," Sabrina Rivera, 12, said. "And then Mr. Golbin told me to try it until I got it right. When I got it right, I felt like I could do anything."
"You were patient with me," a young boy said. "I never got the chance to say thank you."
Two men have been charged with murder in Golbin's death. Alfredo Perez Davila, 23, of Hawthorne, and Anthony Leon Holley, 40, of Lynwood, have pleaded not guilty.
When Hawthorne Police Officer Sean Judd, who is investigating the case, quietly entered the room Thursday in uniform, Golbin's mother, Sheri Kessel, wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him close.
It's been so hard, she said, and every mention of street racing in the news hurts. When she heard three people were killed in Commerce last week in a crash blamed on racing, she said, she cried.
"It just stabs me in the heart every time I hear about another street racer who killed somebody," she said.