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‘Leveling the Playing Field’: A Philharmonic Schools Teacher Reflects

Posted March 23, 2018

March has been designated Music In Our Schools Month® (MIOSM®) by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). It’s the time of year when music education becomes the focus of schools across the nation. In honor of Music In Our Schools Month, here is a reflection by teacher Caroline Cregan, of P.S. 120 in Queens, about her experience with the New York Philharmonic’s Philharmonic Schools program.

Dear Mr. Zerna,
That was a great concert and you did a very great job and I want to say thank you. I thank you for trying your best. Is percussion your favorite type of instrument? Also, do you like going home? I do. And did you feel shy when you were on stage? I would.

When my students were given the opportunity to write letters to members of the Philharmonic, they were amazed. “You mean they’ll actually read MY letter?” The sense of excitement was palpable that day in the classroom.

Asking students to write to members of the Orchestra sends the message that they have important ideas to share. It gives them a sense of power and implies that what they have to say matters.

These are the same performers that they watched just days before, slack-jawed and with wide eyes, at David Geffen Hall, which seats almost 3,000 people.

Starting a dialogue gives them a way to share their voice. Now, the performers from the stage just became real. It allows them to dream, ask questions, and, just maybe, nurture the idea that they too might become musicians one day. We give them an opportunity to share connections, hopes, and fears on the page.

My class is comprised of 12 students with disabilities. Often, tasks are harder for these children. Directly or indirectly, they have received the message countless times that they are struggling students. That means they have to work harder at things that come more easily to other students.

But music levels the playing field. There are no wrong answers. Seeing the look on my students’ faces when they realize that it’s time for the Philharmonic is priceless. The program has not only provided them with the vocabulary to speak confidently about music; it has also bridged that gap between the classroom and the stage.

If you’re interested in Philharmonic Schools or are interested in becoming a Partner School click here.

(Photos Courtesy of Caroline Cregan)