PS22: the importance of the arts in education

I have just spent about two hours watching Youtube videos of the best children’s choir I have ever seen or heard. The PS22 story is not new and the millions of hits that they have had for their wonderful versions of pop, gospel, blues and in fact so many different types of song, that the list goes on and on.

I had to choose one Youtube video to accompany this blog post and I have chosen Eminem’s “I’m Not Afraid” because it shows the talents of the children as a choir, the drummer as a musician, the soloists as individual singers and the brilliant direction of Gregg Breinberg, the amazing teacher, who has taken the choir of a large elementary school in Staten Island, New York and made them into a world famous group of singers, that are going to be performing at the next Oscar Ceremony in Los Angeles, who have had stars like Kylie Minogue fly to New York and come to their school to perform with them, who have sung in front of the President of the United States!

The story of the choir and their teacher is well told in an interview that can be seen here.

One of the main things that Gregg refers to is the way that the arts can inspire and motivate. The success of PS22 goes a long way to tell the story of what arts can contribute to education. The self-confidence of these children is apparent. The joy in their music is apparent and the sense of achievement that is coming from recognition by the media, the President, film actors and pop stars rubs off in the children’s perceptions of themselves.

This is a multi-racial school who are a cross-section of the socio-economic landscape that is Staten Island, New York. In the article referred to above the interviewer mentioned the fact that the children’s grades had increased since they had been involved with the choir. This surely underlies the fact that the arts leads to greater creativity, confidence and collaborative skills (just look how the kids in the choir have formed into a real cohesive unit that supports and increases each other’s abilities and potential).

PS22 is a standard bearer for the arts in education. They are not just a passing phenomena, they represent the importance that music, art, dancing makes to the lives of children and their ability to succeed. This is an important lesson that the policymakers need to learn… let them spend an afternoon on Youtube watching PS22 and then let them justify cutbacks in arts spending!

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