This past school year, CPS students received the unique opportunity to learn the violin through a partnership with Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University. The lessons, held twice weekly after school by student volunteer Liv Gusmano, taught twelve lucky students in grades 2-5 the basics of music theory and playing the violin. This spring, the students were able to share their progress over the course of the year with their peers and teachers at Community Meeting.
The program was initiated last fall when the Chair of Temple’s Music Education Department, Dr. Rollo Dilworth, reached out to the school about getting involved with CPS. After seeing a collection of unused violins on a tour of the school, Dr. Dilworth had the idea of offering strings lessons to CPS students. He connected the school with sophomore student Liv Gusmano, an experienced violist who has taught other elementary age children with the Philadelphia String Project at Temple.
The after school strings program is part of a larger effort to increase enrichment opportunities for CPS students. Research shows that students from low-income households suffer disproportionately from not only an academic achievement gap, but from an “experience gap” stemming from a lack of access to experiences in arts and culture, athletics, and music. Enrichment opportunities and extracurricular activities can help bridge this gap for our students and improve literacy and experiential knowledge. Other partnerships CPS has leveraged to expand enrichment programming this year have included arts and culture experiences through Art-Reach, cooking classes for our fifth grade students through the Vetri Foundation for Children, and an engineering curriculum developed and volunteer-taught by local firm In Posse.
Ms. Gusmano plans to return to CPS this fall to continue the strings program, and has tentative plans to integrate her volunteer work at CPS with her studies at Temple. The program has gained a great deal of popularity: all of the students who participated this past school year will be continuing for the coming school year, and there is a waitlist of students who would like to participate if additional slots become available.
The partnership with Temple’s Music Department has also sparked opportunities for further collaboration. Dr. Dilworth plans to begin a North Philadelphia-based children’s choir, with the hopes of including CPS students in the program.