What a summer it’s been. Our Board of Trustees has met, and many of our friends have joined us, to brainstorm, flipchart, whiteboard, propose, refine, and at last to put it all into words. Our Five-Year Action Plan is complete.
For the last three years we’ve been in the startup phase of the Trenton Music Makers Orchestra, our afterschool music and social development program. Inspired by El Sistema, which began in the 1970’s in Venezuela, we are providing an opportunity for young people to learn music by immersion, and to surprise themselves and the people who love them with what they’re capable of. More than just limiting their exposure to negative influences, the “nucleo,” as these centers are called worldwide, provides a place of challenge and fun, where children grow to understand their role as an asset to their community. As writer and teaching-artist educator Eric Booth describes it, we are “an aligned community that reaches unreasonably high, together.”
But we weren’t starting from scratch. For fifteen years already, we had been providing music learning, teacher training, and family engagement throughout Trenton’s universal pre-K system. Using the Music Together® resource materials, we help Trenton’s fine preschool teachers to use music to support all aspects of children’s learning. More and more, high-quality pre-K programs are recognized as powerful antidotes to the pervasive achievement/opportunity gap between more and less affluent children, and we are committed to making high-quality music a part of their education.
In both cases, it’s our role to remove barriers. No instruments? We’ll supply them. No room in the budget for music lessons? No charge to children and their families. No car? We’ll pick you up for orchestra rehearsal and get you safely home afterward.
These two programs, the Trenton Music Makers Orchestra and Music for the Very Young, are the heart and soul of our work, and the hands and feet of our mission: to bring children together in teams of music learners and makers, to build their minds, imagination and community. Our Five-Year Action Plan calls for the growth of the Trenton Music Makers Orchestra so that it reaches kids in kindergarten through high school, and for us to make it available to every kid in Trenton, on two sites East and West. We’re also going to take Music for the Very Young beyond the two-year residencies, and into a new model that we can sustain indefinitely in each classroom. And we’ll be taking steps in the background that fortify our organization, so that we’ll be thriving from now into the twenty-second century.
And so we find that “Community Music School” is no longer an accurate description. We’re making music with Trenton kids….. and making Trenton kids stronger, with music.
TRENTON: the city where we live and work, whose grit and promise we love, and which we are dedicated to upholding.
MUSIC: our original language – every baby is expressive with sound before learning words – and one that permits no language barrier.
MAKERS: what we do with our hands, using the inspiration of our hearts and our intellect, and offer to the world.
To everyone who joined us for that brainstorming and flipcharting, we thank you! We’re grateful to have friends aboard who agree with us that great music education is important – and that all kids deserve it, regardless of their level of privilege. We promise to keep you posted. Come hear us play; come make music with us; let’s celebrate the great things our kids are doing.