When Principal Roxanne Cardona walks the halls of P. S. 48 Joseph R. Drake in the Bronx, New York, she sees students who talk excitedly about the school day. She also sees students who are happy to come in early to school to practice music with music teachers Melissa Salguero and Diana DiFilipi.
P.S. 48 was one of three schools that won a $50,000 grant to support its music and arts program. The grant was announced after a three-month campaign and more than a million votes cast online. Twentieth Century Fox Television, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) partnered in the “GLEE Give a Note” campaign.
Give a Note Foundation, founded by the NAfME leaders, is dedicated to expanding and increasing music education opportunities for all children (especially those in low-wealth and underserved areas of America).
Seventy-three schools received grants totaling $1 million. The three grand-prize-winning schools were each awarded $50,000 for their music and arts programs.
Cardona says that while some say schools should cut back on arts programs to make way for more reading and math instructions, she sees things differently.
“Kids need music and the arts. That is what keeps them engaged, keeps the coming to school. Twenty years from now students won’t remember how well they did on a spelling test, but they will remember they sang in the chorus or played a clarinet in the school music program.”
She said that she was skeptical when Salguero came into her office and said she wanted to apply for the grant. “I know how hard it is to land a grant, but she said she knew we would win and I believed in [the music teachers].”
Salguero said that she saw a public service announcement for the contest on the Glee television show that starred Jane Lynch, the show’s infamous Sue Sylvester.
The contest required each school entering the contest to make a video about the school and, arts program.
Some of the videos contained funny moments, others poignant moments. P.S. 48 contained both. Students there performed a bouncy original rap song Salguero wrote, but she also showed the broken-down music equipment she struggled to use in her program. The school itself also is in need of many repairs.
But it wasn’t just the video. Salguero and DiFilipi launched a social media campaign spreading the word about the contest and asking for votes. When they found they won at an assembly, students erupted into cheers and singing.
Since winning she and Cardona say they are spending the money carefully. Instruments were a must since most students in the school can’t afford to buy or rent. And they have purchased choral risers.
Already there is a new band, and Salguero said she hopes to start a handbell choir next school year. “They are so excited about the opportunity to make music.”
That does not come at the expense of academics. Cardonna learned recently that P.S. 48 has been recognized as one of the top academic schools in the New York City school district.
Roz Fehr, NAfME managing editor for news
Photos Courtesy of Melissa Salguero