News / USA

Music Inspires Embattled DC Students

Music Inspires Embattled DC Studentsi
X
June 13, 2013 8:18 PM
U.S. inner-city schools are plagued by high drop-out rates, crime-infested neighborhoods and underfunded programs. Kid Pan Alley, a creative non-profit that conducts songwriting workshops nationwide, recently visited a school in a tough, Washington D.C. district. VOA's Mark Snowiss shows how the work boosts kids' creativity and self-confidence.

Music Inspires Embattled DC Students

— Inner-city schools in the United States are in crisis, plagued by high drop-out rates, crime-infested neighborhoods and underfunded programs.

Kid Pan Alley, a small, creative non-profit that conducts songwriting workshops for students nationwide, recently visited a school in Washington's tough Anacostia neighborhood.

Songwriter and recording artist Paul Reisler founded the organization in 1999, working with more than 35,000 students and producing over 2,200 songs since then.

An influential musician who has performed widely since the 1970s, Reisler founded and led the influential folk band Trapezoid and continues to perform with his new group Paul Reisler & A Thousand Questions.

He said music's transformative power can teach children skills they would not otherwise receive in an American educational system that relies increasingly on standardized tests to measure success.

"We're living in a creative economy now," Reisler said. "We're living in an economy that needs people who can imagine things and make things in their minds. Creativity is the most powerful thing that ever was.... What we're really doing is trying to inspire [kids] to be creative."

Inner-city realities

At Orr Elementary School in Washington's Anacostia neighborhood, 95 percent of the students come from low-income families, well above the 70 percent citywide average.

"We have kids that are homeless, we have kids that are going through various challenges, living in shelters and so forth," said Orr Dean of Students Marlon Ray. "But these kids still want to strive for greatness."

"Our 4th and 5th grade students are critical for their families' stability, making sure food is ready when they come home [and other tasks]," explained Orr Director of Programs Jhonna Turner.

Ray said the school's greatest challenge is not only securing financial resources, but human capital as well.

Added to these stark realities, a drive-by shooting took place in April directly in front of Orr while students were outside on the playground. No one was injured, but the event affected everyone in the school community.

"Sometimes we [say] our students are going through war, even just walking off the school grounds... [When] some of them go home, they see things, hear things, that are a little bit scary. But in the midst of all that, they still have to learn," Turner said.

Nearly 70 violent crimes and 200 property crimes have occurred within a kilometer of the school over the past year alone, according to Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department statistics.

"What we teach our kids is always by the time the lights come on, it's time to come in the house," said Lita Nimmons, whose granddaughter, La'Shayla, is an Orr first grader.

Meeting the challenge

Parents Juawawne Eaton and DeWayne Curry said Orr staff face these challenges creatively and that Reisler's work meshes perfectly.

"Orr tries to teach the positive, not the negative, so [Reisler] fell right in. It was a good experience for the kids," Eaton said.

"We want to go beyond the testing and provide activities that make kids want to come to school," Turner added.

Back at the workshop, Reisler and collaborator Heather May encourage the students to move beyond ideas coming from television. Eventually, 1st grader Paul plants a seed that develops into the song "I Heard it On the Radio."

"Whatever it takes"

Kid Pan Alley has produced three commercial CDs, worked with big-name recording artists and received numerous awards and a Grammy nomination.

"We've had people like Amy Grant and Delbert McClinton, 'Kix' Brooks of Brooks and Dunn, Sissy Spacek, the very well-known American actress. We've been really blessed to have people who recognize the quality of the songs the kids are writing, and want to sing them," Reisler said.

Ray said the week-long workshop and concert created positive memories that will last for years.

"Our slogan here at Orr is 'whatever it takes.' And that's what our staff does here - whatever it takes to make it happen," he said emphatically.

Mark Snowiss

Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid