Give In-School Music Education to NYC Youth

by Education Through Music, Inc.
Singing for Darius Rucker and Little Big Town
Singing for Darius Rucker and Little Big Town

With the fall semester underway, ETM’s partner school students have been hard at work learning new skills (and having fun!) in their music classes and ensembles. Your support has set these students up for a rewarding and successful year to come!

Students have had access to several exciting musical opportunities since you last heard from us. In early September, a group of partner school students performed for country stars Darius Rucker and Little Big Town at the Country Music Awards announcements in Times Square. Singing Rucker’s hit song “Wagon Wheel,” the students left their audience impressed and delighted by the performance.

With your help, ETM has expanded in-school programs this fall, reaching more students than ever with our core general music programs. We were also able to expand enrichment activities, and provide students with more ways to practice and enjoy making music. After-school choral ensembles for grades 4-5 and 7-8 are being offered in 28 of our partner schools, and band and orchestra ensembles in 18 schools. These activities give interested students a deeper experience of what it’s like to rehearse and perform as a group. Music teachers recruited students for the electives during September and October, and we’re looking forward to their debut performances this winter!

ETM’s partner school program has grown tremendously this school year. Your support has helped ETM to extend its reach to 20,000 students in the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens—an increase of 5,000 students from last year. Your commitment to children’s music education makes this kind of progress possible. So thank you! If you would like to visit one of our schools, to see a class or a concert, please just ask.

Share your enthusiasm for ETM by forwarding this report to friends or family members. Help them make a difference, too! 

With thanks,

The ETM Staff

This drummer keeps a steady beat!
This drummer keeps a steady beat!

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All smiles at the ETM Summer Music Academy
All smiles at the ETM Summer Music Academy

“From the second I walk into the orchestra room for morning practice, [music] motivates and excites me. It helps me get ready for the rest of the day. I love music, and music class is my favorite because I can have fun, express myself and learn.”

               -Derek,* fourth-grade student at P.S. 68 in the Bronx

Happy summer from ETM! The “lazy days” of summer may be upon us, but many ETM students have been hard at work sharpening their music skills at ETM’s second annual Summer Music Academy. Over 60 students attended this year’s Academy, held at partner school M.S. 529 in the Bronx. Besides participating in ensembles, Academy students got the chance to take on fun, new musical challenges—including a Broadway-style performance and an eclectic musical grab bag. What a great way to keep up the momentum for music education over the summer months!

As we gear up to head back to school this fall, let’s take a look at how your donations have helped ETM continue to grow. The past year was a productive and rewarding one for our partner school students. Every child in our 28 partner schools received regular music instruction, and at 13 of those schools, students like Derek participated in supplementary band or string orchestra programs. Students showcased their skills in holiday and year-end concerts, heard from visiting performers like Peter Cincotti and the “Time for Three” string trio, and performed at the Bronx Parade and other community events. We’re always impressed by what our students accomplish. Thank you for making it possible!

At ETM, we believe music education helps students achieve more in and out of the classroom. For Derek, music is a vehicle for self-confidence and self-expression, as well as a way to boost his academic skills:

“I love music because it helps build my confidence. The confidence I have in music helps me, not just while I’m performing, but in everything I do. Music helps me to concentrate more, especially in math, and gives me the confidence to keep moving forward even when I’m struggling.”

Many ETM students share experiences like Derek’s—and parents and teachers have taken note. According to program evaluation data from 2013-2014, 97% of classroom teachers report that ETM positively impacts students’ self-esteem, and 97% also think the program improves students’ creativity. Principals report that parents have embraced the program and are proud of their children’s achievements. And the benefits outlast the school year. ETM instruction can foster a lifelong appreciation for music, as it did for Derek: “I continue to learn and grow as a musician because I know that music will always be a part of my life,” he writes.

These inspiring results are only possible because of the enthusiastic support of donors like you. You can share your passion for ETM’s work by forwarding this report to friends or family members. Let them know how they can make a difference!

With sincere thanks,

The ETM Staff

*Name has been changed to protect the student’s privacy.

Strumming onstage at a community performance
Strumming onstage at a community performance
Summer Music Academy flutists
Summer Music Academy flutists

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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

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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

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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. 

Links:

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Organization Information

Education Through Music, Inc.

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.ETMonline.org
Project Leader:
Katherine Damkohler
Executive Director
New York, NY United States
$2,373 raised of $50,000 goal
 
45 donations
$47,627 to go
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