The new site at School 1 opened two weeks ago. 35 expectant third to fifth graders entered the music classroom after school intrigued by what the program would offer. They quickly chose instruments (violin, viola, or cello) and were measured for their size. The students were quiet and cooperative the first week. On Thursday, when we had our first day of Pre-Orchestra, 40 first and second graders energetically piled into the cafeteria, enthusiastically awaiting their new music program. These students are in a preparatory program that only meets once a week. All students quickly learned the signal for quiet (P-M-P!), the rules of the program, and the names of the teachers. As the novelty of the program wears off, they will begin the hard process of learning their instruments and musical skills. They are at square one, building their skills and community from the bottom up. They will experience what some people call the “grind” or the “burn” which will last quite a while before they can finally experience “the beauty”.
The new site mirrors the old site, in that the students are all part of this something bigger- this large vision of what we call PMP. At the Charter School (the old site), “the beauty” has certainly unfolded. At CCSP, we are like family with a clear sense of identity and pride, humming and buzzing with energy and music every day. This is demonstrated when our students have snack together and sit “family style”, passing the napkins and juice around the table, breaking into the song “We are Family”. It can also be seen while they are playing charades on the bus home from a long performance, shouting and giggling and laughing uncontrollably. The students most strongly radiate their passion and community while performing Twinkle Tango, which is our go-to PMP anthem. In the last variation of Twinkle Tango, students never tire of dancing, playing, and drumming to the rhythm "Dance-the Tango" before shouting a final "Ole!" Twinkle Tango seems to get more and more raucous and fun every time we play it.
As PMP grows into a city-wide initiative and reaches more students, I hope that we can continue to produce that special and sincere atmosphere of passion, energy, and community. As we grow, we reflect, evaluate, and refine, keeping our core values close at hand to help navigate our path. It will take time and hard work to make the new site look like CCSP, but it will surely develop its own rhythm and beauty as it progresses. There is lots of hard work to be done and challenges to face as we strive for such high musical and social goals across both sites, but whenever we get a little lost or need some motivation, we just “Dance-the-Tango” and remember why we are here.
PMP Students shouting "Ole" at the end of Twinkle Tango at their performance with the NJ El Sistema Alliance in Philadelphia on Martin Luther King Day.