Give In-School Music Education to NYC Youth

May 15, 2014

Better Than I Already Am

Singers perform at the 2014 Children
Singers perform at the 2014 Children's Gala

“I feel a sense of accomplishment when a specific part of my music gives me trouble and I finally get it right…I am always learning and finding out new ways to be better than I already am…”     –Raven*, Partner School Student

We at ETM thank you so much for your past support! Throughout this school year, students like Raven have attended weekly music classes, and participated in holiday concerts and community performances, while receiving the quality music education they deserve. The ETM music teacher at P.S./M.S. 7, Jason Atkinson, for example, provides a glimpse of how the students have responded to the program you are supporting. He writes: 

It was Monday morning and a class of fourth graders passed by me, asking, “We’ve got you this Friday, right?” Later that afternoon I saw another student who beamed, “See you Friday!” even though it was only Monday. Though I liked to think of myself as a good teacher, I knew that it was not me they were looking forward to seeing; it was the drums.

When the drums arrived, all bright and decorated, I stacked them in the corner of my room like a tower of color. When they were passed out, the sound was powerful and cathartic, washing away the day to day stress of life in East Harlem.

The best part about the drums has been that everyone was starting from the same level, which has been a great equalizer for the students. This was, I imagined, a welcome break for people who have just moved here from foreign countries, like Celine* who just moved here from Mexico, and would not talk in class, or express her opinion. 

As we worked through drum grooves, I saw her confidence grow. She was counting out rhythms a little more assuredly and hitting the patterns with a little more confidence. We have repeated these patterns again and again, making sure everyone really gets their part and, as we say, “locks deeply into the groove” As I said goodbye to my students last week, Celine put her away her drum, and came up to me and said, “See you next Friday.”

This type of hands-on learning has allowed students to develop their music skills, self-esteem and confidence. Now that the school year is coming to a close, teachers and students are gearing up for their end-year concerts, and for our third annual ETM Festival, to be held at Marcus Garvey Park in June. Your support has made a positive difference in the lives of our students, and if you are ever interested in visiting a school, feel free to contact our office for further details.

Thank you again for helping our kids to become better students, musicians, and learners!

Our music programs are reaching over 15,000 students during the 2013-14 school year, with plans to expand to reach even more children this fall. Please consider sharing our program with a friend or colleague to ensure that NYC students can continue to have these rewarding experiences through music.  


*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the student


Band students showcase their skills
Band students showcase their skills
Students prepare to step on stage
Students prepare to step on stage
Jazz band students entertain the audience
Jazz band students entertain the audience


Feb 14, 2014

Music education helps kids reach their potential

April performing with PS 76
April performing with PS 76's band

"Music Inspires Me"

April* braves the cold, wintry conditions to endure a 45-minute commute from her home in the Bronx to attend LaGuardia Arts High School, where she is a freshman instrumentalist. Despite the weather, April is excited for school. She has her backpack, clarinet, and smile all visible as she boards the Manhattan-bound train. “I like the way music inspires people…and makes you smile from within,” April says, citing music’s presence in her daily routine as a source of happiness.
April’s love of music first began when she was a student at P.S. 76 in the Bronx, a school that before partnering with Education Through Music in 2005 had no music program for its students. Beginning as early as the 3rd grade, April thrived in the music classroom, taking quickly to musical concepts and showing uncommon skill. By 4th grade, April had landed one of the lead roles in her school’s musical production of The Castaways.
Prior to performing in the musical April struggled with stage-fright. She learned to channel her nerves and build confidence, however, with the help of her music teacher at the time, Ms. Jessica Parr: “The show Castaways helped me uncover that there is nothing to be afraid of, [you] just have to get out there and enjoy what you do.” That same year, April was selected to perform at the ETM Gala at the Waldorf Astoria, where she had another transformative experience that helped fuel her passion for music. It’s these experiences April attributes to “bringing out [her] personality” and inspiring her to join the school band and learn the clarinet.
By 5th grade April was excelling in all subjects as an honor student, which she credits to the skills and work ethic she was developing through her general music and elective band classes. “Music has helped me to focus more. I have to listen to other musicians when they play, follow along and make sure I’m playing the correct notes and at the right tempo. This experience helps me in the classroom to concentrate [regardless of the distractions around me] on what the teacher is instructing.” April has even incorporated musical elements into her study habits by developing techniques that make the experience of learning more fun: “When I’m studying vocabulary,” she says, “I sing out the words and it helps me to study better. I also play jazz music while I’m doing homework.”
Luckily, April was able to continue developing her clarinet skills by attending another ETM partner school in her community, M.S. 180—ETM’s first partner middle school in the Bronx. As an 8th grader April not only challenged herself musically, under the direction of her band instructor Mr. Kevin Heathwood, but also her peers, as the President of the Band. She describes holding this leadership position as “a rewarding experience” that helped her to build a close bond with her musical family.
During her final year at M.S. 180, April decided to take a chance and apply to LaGuardia Arts where she would have the opportunity to grow as a student-musician– and she was accepted! For her first semester, April studied sight singing and wind instrument courses. She loved how these classes offered a safe, constructive space for her to learn from her peers and gain greater feedback on technique and ensemble playing: “It has been great…I have learned a lot, and it’s been wonderful being surrounded by so much talent,” April says of her high school experience so far. April looks forward to taking music theory next semester and joining an extracurricular activity next year once she has better adjusted to her commute from the Bronx.

Education Through Music promotes the use of music education to help students reach their fullest potential in school and life. We are so proud of April – and congratulate her and her family on a successful academic career. April is a testament to the power of music education, and exemplifies our hope of providing students with the tools they need to grow to be thoughtful, creative and engaged leaders and members of their community.

If you enjoyed reading April's story we ask that you share it with your friends and colleagues to continue to help us promote music education in inner-New York City schools.

*The student’s name was changed to protect her privacy. 

April was President of the Band at partner MS 180
April was President of the Band at partner MS 180


Dec 6, 2013

The Flute Player

ETM students are preparing for the winter concerts
ETM students are preparing for the winter concerts

Some students put on a “tough” act as a way of coping with growing up in tough environments. But early exposure to the arts can often allow these students to express their emotions, reflect on and cope with their environments in a creative, constructive manner. For those students whose first exposure to a true arts curriculum begins later in their schooling it can be difficult to shed their tough exteriors to truly engage in the learning process. An activity like singing in class, for instance, is viewed as “uncool” and resisted at great lengths. 

By fifth grade, Kevin* had earned a reputation as his school’s “tough, cool guy.”  When music class was first offered at Kevin’s school, PS 72, he used it as an opportunity to act out.  Kevin had a lot of influence on his peers who followed his lead and misbehaved in music class. This was until Kevin started the current school year, when he became eligible to join the school’s band ensemble.

Kevin was surprisingly quick to sign up for band and to select the flute as his instrument. Kevin has been a natural at the flute and looks forward to music class and band ensemble every week. In band, especially, Kevin is in his element. He is often seen helping his classmates and enjoying the experience of learning and playing music. His music teacher, Morgan Ferris, sees him for both general music and band, and has noted that Kevin’s positive attitude has transferred over into the general music class. Kevin is now more focused and well-behaved. After building a positive rapport with Kevin through band, Ms. Ferris has noticed that Kevin no longer disrupts, and is instead a more active participant in both settings.

While playing the flute has come naturally to Kevin, he also works to improve his ability and knowledge. Kevin has used many of his lunch periods to rehearse and practice on his flute instead of getting into trouble. Not only has the flute kept Kevin from detention, but it has also increased his motivation and overall engagement in school. This has been a nice, noticed change for Kevin’s other academic teachers who have utilized his new-found interest in band to focus his attention in their classes as well. Some teachers have even used extra time at the end of class to allow Kevin to discuss his love of music or to perform for his classmates as a reward for being a productive member of the classroom.

And while Kevin has not made a complete turnaround (as he still shies away from singing), he’s shown great maturity and growth. Kevin has also become interested in using his “cool” guy image to now set a good example for others. Currently, he volunteers with Ms. Ferris to help her teach the Kindergarten classes “I’m a Little Snow Flake” in preparation for the school’s upcoming winter concert.

Kevin and his peers at PS 72, and across ETM’s 28 partner schools, are eagerly preparing for their winter concerts and are ready to showcase what they’ve learned. Without your help and support these students would not have the opportunity to gain invaluable skills and confidence through music. Please consider sharing this story with friends and colleagues who might be interested in supporting this project this holiday season, to help ETM provide students with a well-rounded education all year long. Your support can make a difference! 

*The student’s name was changed to protect his identity and privacy. 


Sep 6, 2013

ETM Music Teachers Prepare For School Year with PD

Teachers getting into the spirit of ETM-led PD
Teachers getting into the spirit of ETM-led PD

September 9th is the first day of school in New York City and our teachers have been busy preparing for the school year. In mid-August, Education Through Music (ETM) gathered music teachers from across its network to participate in the ETM Academy—its revamped and extended professional development (PD) workshops—in Oberlin, OH. At the ETM Academy, teachers attended sessions on Common Core and music education integration, classroom management, lesson planning and curriculum development, and music teaching methodologies. In addition, there were specialized sessions held, which were led by esteemed practitioners in the field on conducting ensembles, teaching guitar in middle school and incorporating world drumming into lessons.

Teachers were energized by the professional development sessions and are eager to apply these lessons in their respective classrooms, as reflected in their survey responses:

“I learned so much about the craft of teaching - not only through the programs/sessions offered, but also through being surrounding by so many fantastic and inspiring teachers 24 hours a day....Even whilst socializing in off time, there was constant talking of strategies and the trading of ideas. Wonderful and inspiring week!

“This experience has been SO valuable. The things we have experienced were very applicable and pertinent to our everyday teaching lives.”

“The retreat atmosphere was particularly helpful in creating a bonded community of learners and teachers.”

“The resources we have been given and the discussions that were had were very helpful.”

We wish our music teachers well – and look forward to another successful school year! As always, ETM plans to keep you informed of our partner school program’s progress. We hope you will consider forwarding this report to friends, family or colleagues interested in supporting music education. Your continued support is greatly appreciated.  


The ETM Academy
The ETM Academy


Jun 10, 2013

Achieving Academic Success Through Music

The following story was written as told by ETM music teacher, Brittany Kolodziej who teaches orchestra at ETM partner schools PS 68 and MS 529 in the Bronx. PS 68, a K-5 school, has partnered with ETM since 1997, during which time it has established its general music program for all students and an orchestra program which serves grades 4-5. 
From the first day Jamal* entered my cello class I knew there was something special about him. Jamal was anxious to learn and came to class and rehearsals throughout the fall and winter season with wide eyes and a huge smile.
I'll never forget one day in November when I had Jamal’s class for the last period of the day on a Friday afternoon: he came into class almost running, unpacked, and immediately began playing the blues on his cello. "Miss Kolodziej," he said, "I'm so glad it's time for cello class. I've had this music running through my head all day and now I finally get to let it out!" 
A few weeks later he began missing his lessons. His teacher informed me she was holding him because he "couldn't even write a sentence." She told me that his grades were so low in English Language Arts (ELA) that he could not afford to miss time in her classroom. I fought this battle and lost. Jamal, however, still came to morning orchestra rehearsals before school and even gave up some recess time to practice with me. He was determined to get his grades up so he could stay in orchestra. As time went on, Jamal showed me a few of his own music compositions. It seemed that composing music was also helping him to compose words, sentences, and paragraphs in his ELA class. During this time, he fell in love with Yo-Yo Ma’s music, and decided he was going to be a famous composer/cellist someday too. 

By the start of spring, Jamal showed me some of his school work and smiled when he told me that his grades were up. In orchestra, he never skipped a beat.
I almost cried, a few weeks ago, when he brought me an essay he wrote about what music meant to him. I could see his effort come through in his writing. It was evident that he wrote and re-wrote his story many, many times before giving it to me.  He wrote beautifully. I had seen where he was in the winter, and the improvement in his writing was astounding.
Jamal’s hard work in both cello class and ELA are paying off and he has been selected for an USDAN scholarship to attend a summer arts camp. His gift and passion for music has motivated him to rise above his challenges in ELA. He is one of the most gifted students in the orchestra and his musical abilities are top notch. I am so excited for what is in store for him.
*The student’s name was changed to protect his identity and privacy. 

Please consider sharing this story with friends and colleagues who might be interested in supporting this project to help ETM provide more students with sustained and quality music instruction. Your support can make a difference!  


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Project Leader

Katherine Damkohler

Executive Director
New York, NY United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Give In-School Music Education to NYC Youth