What exactly does PopsEd do to improve music education for students?
The New York Pops is dedicated to lifelong learning, and through PopsEd, we collaborate with public schools, community organizations, children’s hospitals, and senior centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Our Lesson-Based Residencies bring professional musicians into the classroom to lead instrumental, choral, and musical theatre programs with students in grades K-12, both in school and after school. Our Concert-Based Residencies are built around musical themes and genres, and introduce students to particular instruments as well as concepts such as rhythm and melody. And our Creativity/Composition-Based Residencies provide students with a means to express themselves through the composition and performance of their own original music. Kids in the Balcony, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, provides more than 3,000 free tickets each year in order for students to see The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall and Forest Hills Stadium. And Kids on Stage gives 20 select students the opportunity to perform onstage at our Birthday Gala at Carnegie Hall, alongside the professional musicians of The New York Pops.
How does the audition process work to join PopsEd?
There is no audition necessary to participate in the majority of our PopsEd programs. We work directly with schools and community organizations through our residency program to customize programs that help them achieve their goals and fit the individual needs of their students.
The only program for which there is an audition process is Kids on Stage. Middle-school students submit an application in order to be considered for the program. This year, we received 117 student applications! 20 students are then selected to perform onstage at our Birthday Gala, and five of those students are awarded a full scholarship to the French Woods Festival for the Performing Arts summer camp to continue their musical studies.
How many students do you accept into PopsEd annually?
PopsEd works with approximately 6,000 students annually through our education programs.
Why do you think music education is so important especially at a young age?
The impact that music can make on a child’s development is immeasurable. Music increases and improves language development, memorization skills, coordination, pattern recognition, and auditory skills. It builds imagination, intellectual curiosity, and discipline, and promotes creative thinking and teamwork. It fosters a sense of achievement and self-confidence, and helps students develop 21st century skills.
With the rumors going on that the National Endowment of the Arts might be defunded, what do you think the biggest tragedy would be if it were to happen?
As an arts administrator, I have witnessed the impact of the sharp decline in school arts funding over the past several years. Several years ago, each school was allocated a specific amount of annual funding that had to be spent on the arts, giving principals the freedom to do anything from replacing the curtain on the auditorium stage to providing hands-on arts experiences for their students. As funding decreased, tough choices had to be made, and we began to see fewer full-time arts teachers in the schools. Despite this, many principals recognize how important the arts are to and for their students, and go above and beyond to make sure the arts are included in their school, despite the funding challenges. We feel very lucky to partner with schools in order to keep music alive for their students. The National Endowment for the Arts funds, supports, and promotes equal access to the arts. Arts organizations rely on its support, and the consequences of losing the NEA are hard to consider or imagine.
Every concert you guys do Kids in the Balcony, what do you think the most beneficial thing for these kids attending a concert at Carnegie Hall is?
Kids in the Balcony, which began in 1991, is our flagship PopsEd music education program. It was started by New York Pops co-founder Ruth Henderson, and is based on her dream of giving children opportunities to be inspired by music, and to foster their own lifelong passion for the arts. Over the past 25 years, more than 37,000 students have attended New York Pops concerts free-of-charge through this program. 100 students are in attendance at each of our mainstage concerts at Carnegie Hall, and for our annual Birthday Gala, we fill the balcony with more than 800 students from across the five boroughs.
For many of these students, it is the first time they are seeing a professional orchestra performing live on stage, let alone at Carnegie Hall. It is amazing to see their faces light up as they look down from the balcony, and there is nothing better than hearing them cheer when Steven calls up to them. Our hope is that they realize, as they step into this world-renowned concert venue, that they are welcome. This is part of their city, and all kinds of people can come together in that hall to celebrate music. Over the past two years, we have established Kids in the Stadium at our summer home at Forest Hills Stadium. In 2015 and 2016, more than 3,000 free tickets were distributed to students and their families. This is another way that we are able to introduce students to music right in their own backyard.
Most of all, like Ruth, we hope that this is just the beginning of their lifelong relationship with music and the arts.
How can more people get involved in helping children learn music through your great program?
We encourage people to visit our website at www.newyorkpops.org to learn more about our PopsEd programs, as well as all of our upcoming New York Pops concerts and events. Special events, such as our annual cabaret event and the Birthday Gala, include opportunities to support our music education programs. You can also learn about giving opportunities on our website by clicking on the “Support” button. Finally, follow us on social media. We are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and we post often about PopsEd! #popsed
Do you guys have any planned additions to your PopsEd program for next season?
We are always looking toward the future, and how we can continue to provide music education programs of the highest quality. Right now, our focus is on strengthening our partnerships, in order to provide deeper levels of engagement for students in all of our programs.
We are also very excited to continue to work with our PopsEd Ambassadors! This amazing group of performing arts professionals, chaired by Kelli O’Hara and our Music Director Steven Reineke, help raise awareness for all of the incredible PopsEd programs. Their support means the world to us.
A college student at SUNY Purchase, I see many shows on Broadway annually and love theatre.