Posted October 31, 2011

Kids arts program takes aim at music education cuts

Grant-funded Temple Performing Arts Center initiative helps fill gap left by reduced school arts funding

Kelly and Massa Photography
Lamont Dixon, a vocalist and member of the Rhythms and Rhymes Ensemble, sings along with local elementary school students during the first performance in the Eyes Wide Open in North Philadelphia arts series at the Temple Performing Arts Center.

A group of fidgety first-graders stop squirming in their seats and direct their attention toward the stage as percussionist Josh Robinson and members of the Rhythms and Rhymes ensemble begin to play a familiar tune.

“Today we’re going to learn about the language of music,” Robinson announces, before leading the group in a call-and-response exercise that captures the full attention of the crowd.

Robinson and his bandmates are part of a traveling music program designed to give students access to music education. On this day, they’re performing for an auditorium filled with local elementary school students.

Over the next two years, local students will be invited to participate in similar performances through the Eyes Wide Open in North Philadelphia arts program, a new initiative offered by the Temple Performing Arts Center (TPAC). The program received a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as part of the Knight Arts Challenge.

“The Temple Performing Arts Center is honored that the Knight Foundation chose our North Philadelphia Community Outreach Project as one of the winners in Knight’s first Philadelphia Arts Challenge, and that it judged our project as a complement to the foundation’s mission to improve communities and local economic growth,” said Valarie L. McDuffie, director of TPAC.

The program was designed to offer arts education to schools whose music programs have been reduced or eliminated entirely.

In addition to having fun, the children who attended the music session learned concentration skills, said Daniel B. Capoferri, a senior education major and student teacher at Duckery Elementary School.

“The arts made a huge difference in my life,” said Capoferri. “Early exposure to the arts increases brain power, boosts memory skills and instills a sense of pride in school-age children. I hope this program helps instill a love for the arts and music, and encourages them to get interested in an instrument.”

This is the inaugural year of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge, a $9 million initiative supporting innovative projects that inspire and enrich Philadelphia’s communities. TPAC was selected from among more than 1,700 applications from our region.

The foundation announced in May that TPAC was one of 32 winners from our area.