The numbers don’t lie: eight years of assessments by Teachers College at Columbia University say that children who participate in the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s Early Strings Program outperform their peers districtwide by 25 to 30 percent on standardized math, literacy, and science tests.
The Early Strings Program has brought NJSO musicians into Newark public schools since 2000, providing hands-on string-instrument instruction to the city’s second-, third-, and fourth-graders. Since the partnership’s inception, the NJSO has invested nearly $2 million in the program, providing string instruments for all participating students; ten hours per year of professional development in Suzuki method for participating music teachers; transportation for more than 3,500 Newark elementary-school students to attend NJSO Concerts for Young People at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center; and transportation of students and compensation for music teachers to participate in the annual FiddleFest at NJPAC for “graduating” fourth-graders.
SymphonyNOW recently stopped by Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Newark’s North Ward to visit a class of third- and fourth-graders in action. In their basement classroom, students were just getting the hang of navigating the A and E strings of their violins, under instructors Nick Strauss, a music teacher at Franklin, and Naomi Youngstein, a New Jersey Symphony Orchestra violinist who also teaches in the Early Strings Program. We also checked in on Newark high-school musicians who had graduated from the Early Strings Program, as they performed onstage at NJPAC with members of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. As Naomi Youngstein comments in the video story below, “Kids from the Early Strings Program eventually aim to get into and go to Newark’s Arts High School, and once they get to Arts High, all those kids go to college—every single one.”
Click here to read Teachers College at Columbia University’s May 2009 report about the NJSO Early Strings Program.
Text and photos by Jennifer Melick
Video story edited and produced by Hilan Warshaw