“While this year was unlike any other and difficult for everyone, the classroom teachers and I were able to create such a wonderful musical environment that allowed students to express themselves and their emotions.”
Celebrating School Year 2020-21
School year 2020-21 was like no school year we’ve ever seen at Education Through Music. Our music teachers and their students spent much of the school year teaching and learning from home: from kitchens, and bedrooms, and even the occasional closet.
But despite the incredible obstacles created by COVID-19, our teachers and students impressed everyone with their determination, creativity, and generosity, leading to what we could consider ETM’s most successful school year yet.
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After a year of living and learning during a pandemic, some of our ETM Partner Schools were able to safely host live performances this spring (2021). We know that live performances offer students incredibly important opportunities to make music together, which is good for their social-emotional learning.
But managing live performances during COVID-19 is a testament to the commitment ETM, and our ETM teachers have to their students. And it illustrates our perseverance and problem-solving skills in the face of daunting challenges. Our ability to support live performances this spring also confirms the strong and collaborative relationships with school leaders at our Partner Schools, who trust us completely to keep students safe, even during a pandemic.
ETM Teachers are Hired by NYC’s DOE
One of the indicators that our model is effective and successful is when an ETM music teacher is hired by their Partner School principal or a principal at another ETM Partner School. We’re thrilled to share that at the end of this school year (SY20-21), 20% of ETM Music Teachers were hired by a Partner School Principal.
When a principal is willing to invest in an additional staff member, that means that they are fully committed to sustaining their school’s music program–not just for a year but in perpetuity. ETM’s mission is to ensure that all students, at every school, have access to music education, so every principal that commits to music brings us closer to achieving our mission.
It’s also important to acknowledge the efforts and professional success of the ETM teachers hired by a Partner School principal. ETM teachers are not members of NYC’s teachers union or employees of the Department of Education (DOE). When an ETM teacher is hired by a Partner School principal, the principal is also investing in them and acknowledging the contribution they make to their school’s community. Further, the principal is opening the door for that teacher and granting them access to all the benefits of NYC’s teachers union, benefits they don’t have access to as ETM employees. As more ETM teachers are hired, more arts educators will join the DOE, strengthening their impact on NYC’s young people and ensuring access to music education in NYC.
Uku Ukuleles, a commercial ukulele merchant, donated five ukuleles to ETM this school year. In turn, ETM designated that the ukuleles be stored and used at ETM Partner School P.S. 55 in the Bronx. This donation represents Uku’s belief in the effectiveness and value of our model and mission. Their donation also kicked off a healthy relationship that may cultivate further in-kind donations, financial gifts, sponsorship, or other collaborations between our brands.
Launching Orchestra at M.S. 118
This spring (2021), despite the impact of COVID-19, ETM was able to launch a brand new orchestra program at Partner School M.S. 118 in the Bronx. Starting an orchestra program at this school had been a goal for some time, and ETM didn’t want the pandemic to continue to delay implementing this program for the school’s students. So, through deliberate planning, ETM safely launched the program, including instrument distribution and in-person and remote rehearsals.
What’s more, the orchestra enriched the other music programming at the school. 6th graders at M.S. 118 already participate in Music Technology; adding orchestra offers students a new way to engage with music education and provides differentiated learning opportunities for students.
What’s more, launching the orchestra at M.S. 118 also helps us achieve another goal: creating a pipeline for 4th and 5th-grade orchestra students in District 10 to continue to have access to orchestra in middle school.
While many of ETM’s SY21-22 partnerships are still being confirmed, we can already report at least five (5) ETM Partners Schools who had to end their partnership in SY20-21 due to COVID-19 safety requirements and budget constraints are resuming their partnerships with ETM this fall.
In addition, principals who had to decrease the number of ETM service days in their schools due to health and safety restrictions and budget constraints prompted by the pandemic are electing to return to pre-pandemic levels of service. In fact, the 44 Partner Schools continuing their partnerships this year (SY21-22) are increasing instructional days by 50 days (total), increasing over 50% compared to SY21.
This shows that our Partner Schools deeply value what ETM provides and demonstrates that ETM has successfully established the value of music education for students. It also indicates that ETM is a valuable commodity, something that school principals believe is needed. Further, it illustrates that school principals agree with ETM that ALL students must receive music (or arts) as a core part of their education and are willing to invest their limited budget in ETM.
Saving P.S. 91’s Music Program
Longtime ETM Partner School P.S. 91 was forced to end its partnership with ETM in SY 19-20 due to COVID-19-related budget constraints. However, thanks to a CASA (Cultural After-School Adventures Program) grant, the school revived its ETM partnership halfway through the school year. In fact, while the CASA grant is intended for afterschool programming, ETM was able to negotiate with the grantor (Department of Cultural Affairs) on behalf of P.S. 91 to allow the school to use the funds for regular day instruction (as opposed to after school only).
In this case, ETM persevered and found a creative solution that resulted in students having music instruction. ETM’s persistence salvaged the partnership with P.S. 91, which may have been permanently discontinued otherwise. And most importantly, it ensured that students at P.S. 91 would have access to music education.
The Band Played On
Despite the pandemic and related restrictions, ETM maintained band programs at 31R039, 07X369, and 06M209. It took a lot of creativity, time, energy, and financial resources (absorbed by ETM) to find a way to keep these band programs alive. Still, ETM relentlessly pursued solutions to create opportunities for the children at our Partner Schools.
High School Pilot
ETM launched its first high school program at H.S. 223 in SY 20-21, despite the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. All 10th-grade students had music technology five (5) times per week with their ETM music teacher. This instruction also fulfilled their high school graduation requirement in State Mandated Arts. In service of this pilot, ETM secured a Hyde & Watson grant of $5K to purchase a music tech lab to support the continuation of this program when school resumes in-person this fall.
With this partnership, ETM has demonstrated its commitment to growth and becoming an organization that serves all NYC students from PreK through 12th grade. It also highlights ETM’s depth of expertise in arts education for elementary and secondary students of all grades.
Music Tech Transition Initiative
In SY 20-21, ETM launched the School District 7 5th grade music tech initiative that will prepare transitioning elementary students (middle school students at ETM Partner School M.S. 223) and help them connect meaningfully to their new community and stay engaged with music.
This initiative is important progress towards ETM’s long-term goal of fostering district-based pipelines for ETM Partner School students to continue their music education even when they change schools or matriculate to new grades.