Monthly Archives: December 2011

Concert video is up!

Our whole winter concert is up on youtube! Check it out on our channel: pyomusic

Boundaries and why we love them

Tuesday was a tough day, and reminded me why my job is hard. I’m not sure exactly what it was, I am of the opinion that the closer you get to Christmas the harder it is for kids to focus in school. At the same time, I realize that we are expecting something phenomenal out of our students and more specifically out of their behavior.

By the time we get our students they have been in school since 7:30am, some of them get up at 5:00am to get on the school bus. As of our most recent enrollment numbers 25% of our kids are in special education, some in full day special ed. Two of our students have TSS workers who accompany them to their music classes. All of our classes are mixed grades, mixed ages, sometimes siblings end up in the same room. So it makes sense that it is sometimes extremely difficult for the students to focus.

I realized early on this year that someone needed to be the swift arm of justice, and as the director that roll falls to me. Paul and I often play a well planned game of “Good Cop – Bad Cop” with the kids. He’s a great good cop, I might be an even better bad cop. It’s funny, I’m 5’5″, I have a high voice, I look like I’m 12, but to the kids I’m the big scary disciplinarian. I’m the person who’s been punched this year, had a chair thrown at me, pulled a kid out from under a desk who told me to “shut my ugly face”, Paul and I call moms, get yelled at by grandmas. But we are also the people who often get the biggest hugs, we get to hear the chorus in the hallway of  “its time for music!”, children come to us to show off and let us know how well they are doing. I have the privilege of giving out so much praise because each child knows where my boundaries are.

Tuesday was hard. Our wind and brass students just could not focus. Their teachers were hard at work, doing a great job of trying to engage them but it was clear that we were not going to be able to get anything accomplished that day. I stopped the class. We had a 30 minute quiet time where every student wrote an essay about their behavior, how it could be improved and what it is that makes them believe they can improve *. I locked up all the instruments and no one took them home that night.  It was hard, I felt bad, the kids felt bad but I knew I had done the right thing. Everyone had violated our classroom rules and they needed to be reminded that we expect more of them.

If what we are searching for in these programs is “social change”, we have to teach our children what is socially acceptable. It’s not that I expect to walk into a silent classroom, but we do not serve our students eventual success by having low or no expectations on their behavior. Some of our kids have some really rough, heartbreaking life stories but if we want them to be contributing, amazing members of society they need to know that we love them and care about them by us (the adults in their lives) endlessly reminding them that we have insanely high expectations of them and that we believe in them.

As I said to the kids on Tuesday: “We believe in you too much to let you act like this.”

Wednesday, I got big smiles and hugs.

* Most of the essays were your run of the mill “I need to stop talking. I will raise my hand.” But one special essay included this, “I want to be a professional musician, so I will improve my behavior”.

It’s a beautiful thing

As of this week the students have taken their instruments home. Every instrument has come back to school with them, they have returned unscathed, and some of the kids are really practicing (others not so much)! For me (Delia -Director), I love to walk through the halls of the school and see the instruments in the classrooms waiting to come to their lessons. It seems like a lovely and happy decoration to have a cello and two trombones in the corner, and a reminder to our students that they are part of our music community outside of school.

Last night I walked out to unlock my bike and head home. Usually I run into a few Tune Up Philly kids and their families as I put on my lights and my helmet. It entertains the kids A LOT to see me riding my bike down Broad Street so I usually make it a point to seek them out. Across the street from me were two boys and their grandmothers at the SEPTA bus stop and in each of their hands was a violin. As I rode down Broad Street, I saw a trumpet and french horn heading into the subway station. Best of all, I stopped at a red light and waved as one of our second graders walked across the street into the Richard Allen projects, holding hands with his mom and brother, the violin slung over mom’s shoulder.

It’s a beautiful thing to see all these instruments go home.

Saadiq celebrates backstage after playing

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Concert Highlights

Hard At Work!

Our Second Grade Violin Class, taught by Ms. Mandy Wolman, learns some new music after the concert. Stick it out to the end, there are some priceless smiles!

The Concert: Post-mortem

The best metric I can think of to measure the success of our first concert comes of course from the students themselves. Tamir, one of our third grade violin students came up to me right after the concert and asked,  “Ms. Delia! When is the next concert?! I can’t wait!” Najalese, one of our first grade students said to me,  “My mom was so proud of me. I could see her clapping for me and it made me feel so happy!”

Shimani and Noelani Ramsey pose for pictures after the concert

The pride in that room was overwhelming. Our students attend a school that does not have a school music or art program, there aren’t school plays, winter concerts or many other opportunities for parents to come to school for the sole purpose of appreciating their children’s accomplishments. It was incredibly moving to feel that pride and to see the looks on the children’s faces when they realized that all the clapping was for them. Over the past two days (post-concert) the excitement and feeling of accomplishment has been palpable amongst the children.

Assistant director Paul Smith and I ran into the principal yesterday on the elevator. He looked at us and said, “Great concert. You realize that you have a lot of our toughest kids? I was looking at them on stage and looking through my behavior lists and seeing how much they overlapped”. I looked at him, ” Oh yeah, we noticed alright” and we could not be more proud of them. Here’s to many more concerts and to our students carrying that pride with them everywhere!