“When you do what you love, things can happen for you.” When you visit the blog for the PS22 Chorus, this quote is displayed on the headline and it could not ring more true than with this amazing group of students. The PS22 Chorus was started by Greg Breinberg in Graniteville, Staten Island, New York. “Mr. B,” as his students refer to him, arrived at Pubic School 22 in 1999 after being laid off from his previous job as a music teacher. When he arrived at PS22, he was the second grade teacher however, he persuaded the principle of PS22 to let him to teach music again as well as start a chorus for the students in 2000.
Starting any type of school arts program in the year 2000 was a very risky move. In the 21st century, our schools are experiencing budget cuts from every angle and, more likely than not, arts programs are the first ones to get the axe. Too many of our politicians and policy makers fail to see the amazing difference art can make in a student’s life. Before Mr. B was given the opportunity to teach music again, he would play music in all of his classes in order to keep the students engaged in the class and to encourage their participation.
The PS22 Chorus has provided all of its members, past and present, with an amazing opportunity that they may not have had anywhere else. Many of the students that are a part of this chorus come from broken homes where their parents neglect them and they do not have a bright future to look towards. PS22 Chorus gives these students an opportunity to not only escape from the troubles they are having at home, but a chance to actually reflect on their experiences and emotions so they can grow from them. Music provides these children with an emotional outlet that they would not have been able to get anywhere else.
Something very unique about the PS22 Chorus versus other elementary school music programs is that each student is given the chance to perform a solo. The group performs a variety of songs every year highlighting each student’s strength as a singer while the rest of the group performs background vocals and provides harmonies. By allowing different students the chance to shine, the students are able to see each other as equals instead of one being better than the other. Once all the students realize that they all have an amazing gift to give, difference based on race, ethnicity, gender, height, weight and many other things can finally be overlooked and the students can unite to embrace their love of music and build strong relationships with one another that can last into the future.
Too many times the arts are forgotten. Statistics have proven that when students receive a more well rounded educational experience that includes the arts, physical activity and other alternative methods of learning, they excel in their studies. Incorporating arts into the classroom can be done very simply. Like Mr. B, you can play music as your students enter the classroom each day so the students are engaged with what you and the class from the beginning of the period. Also, providing them the time during the class to reflect on the song and what emotions it brought to light for them can help them process hardships or happiness they may be experiencing in their lives outside of the classroom.
Another way to successfully incorporate music into the classroom in order to promote critical thought and peace would be using music to enhance the teaching of subjects such as history, literature, science or math. You can enrich your history and literature lesson plans by connecting the topics you are discussing with the music of the culture from which it came. With math and science, you can help your students connect to the material more so, absorb it and fully understand it through the use of song. If you are able to stimulate your student’s mind through the use of song, they are more likely to engage with you and the rest of the class and therefore have a full educational experience.
In a time where the arts were being cast aside and looked down upon, Mr. B knew how important they were to his students’ happiness and success. Thinking about a world where are youth are denied the right to express their creativity in our school systems is absolutely heart breaking. If we want our youth to grow up to be full adults, ones who not only have the critical thinking and analysis abilities necessary to be successful members of the work force, but emotional beings who are able to express themselves and connect with peers on a deeper level in order to form strong community bonds, we must continue to promote an educational experience that incorporates the arts.