Nov. 2, 2009
Liz Babiarz, 404-413-1356
In an age of budget deficits and national testing standards, school districts across the nation are cutting back on music programs.
But that's not the case at Charles Drew R. Charter School in the East Lake neighborhood of Atlanta.
Thanks to a recent grant from the Cousins Foundation, Inc., a total of $487,000 over three years, GSU's School of Music has expanded its presence at the charter school, maximizing K-8 students' potential for academic learning through music.
"Music does help with academic achievement," said GSU professor emeritus John Haberlen, who is the supervisor of the grant and former director of the School of Music. "A certain amount of research has implied that music in a young child's life will help them develop spatial recognition, math skills as well as self-confidence and poise."
A key aspect of the program is "Sound Learning," in which the charter school's teachers work with School of Music site coordinators to plan residencies with musicians from the community. These music performances intentionally connect with academic lessons in the areas of language arts, geography, science and math.
Another aspect of the partnership incorporates music lessons taught by GSU graduate music students on a variety of instruments. More than 45 Drew students are learning to play the clarinet, trumpet, flute, among other instruments. GSU graduate students have the opportunity to hone their instructional skills and nurture students, Haberlen added.
The School of Music is also facilitating the "Connect" program in the charter school. It allows Drew students to develop composition and improvisation skills, as well as collaborate with other performing artists in creative contexts.
Since the partnership between the School of Music and Drew began in 2006, the charter school's performing arts area has expanded to include four bands, five choruses, two performing dance troupes and a fourth grade orchestra projected to become active this fall. Last year, with the purchase of 25 violins, more than 80 third graders and their teachers were involved in an exploratory violin class in an effort to build a school orchestra.
In addition to maintaining and increasing excellence in the charter school's music and arts program, the new grant will support music lessons for pre-kindergarten children, a summer community music camp and a community chorus program that will be formed of intergenerational singers.
The Cousins Foundation, Inc., helped revitalize Atlanta's East Lake neighborhood and establish the charter school, the city's first public charter school.
"There are few children in America who have these kinds of opportunities," said Cynthia Kuhlman, director of educational achievement at the Cousins Foundation and board chair at the charter school. "Not only are they learning music, they are enriching their classroom experiences by working with professional musicians."
The partnership, initiated by the School of Music's Center for Educational Partnerships in Music, benefits Georgia State University as well.
"It provides opportunity for urban education research and it informs pedagogy at the school site as well with our teaching of undergraduate and graduate students," said Katie Carlisle, assistant professor of music education and co-facilitator of the Center for Educational Partnerships.