Published: Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 17:09
The big kids were always the coolest—the ones who got to carry those funny-looking guitar cases on the bus, who chewed on wooden sticks while snapping together a bigger version of my plastic recorder and who stomped around outside of the high school banging on funny drums they wore like backwards backpacks.
I didn’t know it then, when I sang in the third grade chorus and was taught to play “Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder, but I grew up in a town with a phenomenal music program. Children are exposed to the arts as early as elementary school, and the opportunities to get involved only increase and diversify with age. My experiences in public school in Randolph, N.J. are what inspired me to become involved in the arts. Randolph Township Schools have repeatedly been named one of the Best Communities for Music Education by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, most recently in 2012. At this point in my college career, it’s safe to say that working, playing and learning in the performing arts have shaped me as a person—so much so that I hope to work in arts administration after graduation.
Thinking back, my favorite times of the year in elementary school were before winter recess and before spring break. Why, you ask? Because I got to watch and listen to a concert played by the older kids! Choir, orchestra and band shared the stage twice a year, and it brought immense joy to my little heart. Those concerts inspired me to get my own “funny-looking guitar case” and to play the violin from fourth grade all the way through my senior year of high school. The music bug stuck—I played in University Strings for my first few semesters, too.
I connect my childhood musical exposure to ProjectMUSIC, a service-learning program that brings university music students into local elementary and middle schools. The program is entering its eighth year.
I spoke with senior music education major Sarah Kutash about the program and about her four years of involvement in this Project of Music Uniting Students Inspiring Communities.
Originally, ProjectMUSIC sent university students into elementary and middle schools to work with children and to get them involved in music outside of the classroom.
“This year, we’re continuing that and revamping the process so it’s better for them,” Kutash says. “We’re also expanding into the community and on campus to engage the community in music.”
Kutash is a ProjectMUSIC scholar and works as a program organizer. She coordinates with schools and community partners, organizes the groups of university students (teaching artists) who go on trips and works to make sure the process runs smoothly.
ProjectMUSIC currently offers three different types of programs. At the elementary school level there are two programs. First is ProjectMUSIC Opera at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, which enables university students to direct and perform alongside students in their own musical. The second program sends university ensembles to Richardson Park Elementary School to perform for the children and to teach them general music topics. At the middle school level, teaching artists sit in ensembles at Shue-Medill Middle School with the students and play along with them. Teaching artists also break up the ensemble into smaller sectionals to teach and coach the students.