Monthly Archives: January 2013

Music brought something precious to people who have nothing…

Who knew that a slum town that’s built on a landfill could inspire a nation like ours?  They may have no material things, but they have something much more precious.  They have a way to express themselves.  They have creativity.  They have music.  

It’s really kinda amazing.  Landfill Harmonic is a movie focused on the music made by special kids on special instruments.  The teaser trailer has amassed over 800,000 views. 

Inspiring, isn’t it?


Is the proposed budget increase enough?

2013-14 Executive Budget Address

Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget may bring New York City additional funding supports.  However, there is still much uncertainty surrounding the proposal.  The additional aids requires our teacher union to finalize an evaluation system by September 1.  Our schools missed out on grant money earlier this month failing to achieve this exact task.  

We’re optimistic about the budget increase.  Every dollar can help!  

However, we’re also realistic.  Even if this proposal passes and our schools get the additional aids, it’s not enough.  It’s just not enough.  Our kids deserve so much more.  Our kids deserve a well-rounded education that will prepare them to compete in this increasingly challenging world.  Arts to Grow is committed to do our part in that mission.  

Read more…

Daily News: Gov. Cuomo proposes $142.6 billion budget with money for Hurricane Sandy victims, troubled schools

Wall Street Journal: Cuomo proposes $143B state budget; spends 2% more

Gotham Gazette: Cuomo’s $142B Budget Increases Education Spending

Music to our nation’s ears

Last Monday, the nation celebrated the inauguration of President Obama to his second term.  As a nation, we have accomplished a lot in the last four years.  But we must not forget the work we still have to do.  President Obama reminded us of our responsibility as a nation in his speech.

… No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores.  Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people…

Our children will be our future.  The strength of our nation will rest upon their little shoulders one day.  We must do what we need to today to prepare them for that important task ahead.  But, if our schools don’t have sufficient math and science teachers, we know they don’t have enough arts teachers.  This is why organizations such as Arts to Grow exist.  We bridge the gap between what the school can provide and what our children need.  

Arts empower our at-risk youths to connect with themselves.  Music gives our children a mean to express emotion in ways words couldn’t.  (In fact, music probably communicated more emotion at the inauguration ceremony than any speech.)   Teaching Artist David Freeman noted that “Through my work, I have learned that there is a commonality between the needs of all populations. We all need a safe place to express ourselves and a place to be heard.”  He also observed great changes students who participated in our music program in the past.  ”[They] have developed a respect for themselves, for others, and for the music. When you look at their faces when performing, it says it all.”

If you’d like to support Arts to Grow’s music and other arts program, you can visit our registry for our wishlist of musical instruments and more.  

By Jeannie Chan, ATG Volunteer Social Media Manager.  When she’s not posting for ATG, Jeannie is passionate brand manager, fueled by intellectual curiosity and caffeine! Connect via Twitter @jeannie_chan.

Life lessons on the theater stage


We are preparing for a new year’s theater production, the Wiz.  The kids are having fun learning the new production.  We had great fun too watching their rehearsals and their preview.  But it’s not all just fun and games.  Through our theater classes, our kids learn a lot of important life skills as well.  

Students learn the in and outs of theater production character – development, vocalization, movement, stage direction, coldreading auditions, costume and set design, lighting, and stage management. All programs culminate with a performance.  Through these lessons, our kids gain 21st Century skills of creativity, innovation, critical thinking and collaboration.  These skills will serve them a lifetime.  On top of it all, our kids develop confidence to face whatever future they dare to imagine.  

Don’t just take our words for it, check out what past participants in our Theater program learned in their own words:  

Intriguing Approach to Bringing Arts to Kids


As our followers know, Arts to Grow’s mission is to make our arts program available to as many kids as possible.  The key to achieving this mission is two-fold.  First, we raise funds to grow our programs.  To this end, we’d like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who made a year-end pledge.  Secondly, we ensure that our funds are used as effectively as possible.  This in turns allows us to bring arts to as many kids as possible.  Arts to Grow achieves this with the help of an extensive volunteer corp.  Volunteers give their professional expertise ranging from finance, technology, marketing, law, and more.  Everything that happens outside the classrooms is made possible by volunteers.  Collectively, volunteers have lent over 21,500 hours of professional work to support Arts to Grow’s mission.

Now, while our innovative approach is not new news to our friends and supporters, it has garnered national attention through ArtsFwd.  Arts to Grow was recognized in the “Business Unusual” Contest, and received an honorable mention for Intriguing Approaches.  We’re excited about the recognition!  At the same time, we had long known that we have been doing something right each time we see that smile on our kids’ faces.  We look forward to continue to grow our programs with the help of our volunteers, and see more smiles on more kids.  

Thank you to all our volunteers.  If your New Year resolution is to get more involved with the local community, consider volunteering with Arts to Grow.  Join us in making a difference in our kids lives!

Spring Musical Sneak Preview

Just before the holidays, our children previewed several dance numbers from their upcoming Spring musical show during the Cypress Hills LDC / IS 171 Holiday Show.  The kids were absolutely fantastic!  The crowd loved them!  We’re so proud of them.  We’re excited to share a short clip here:  an excellent performance of Ease on Down the Road from the Wiz.  Many thanks to great directions and tutelage of our wonderful Teaching Artist Mariano Martinez.  We can’t wait to see the Wiz in Spring!  

A little about our Teaching Artist… 

Mariano is a dancer at heart, mind, body and soul. He discovered his love for dance at the age of four and his feet have not stopped moving since. He is well versed in many dance forms including Hip Hop, Salsa, House, Modern, Jazz, and Punta.  After receiving his B.A. from Medgar Evers College, he founded his own company J. Dove Productions Inc. where he has been choreographer for Sweet 16s and Quinceañeras since 1999. To date he has choreographed over 100 Sweet 16s and Quinceañeras and through choreography, recommendation letters for jobs and colleges, has empowered over 500+ youth. His empowerment work extends throughout the U.S. and as far as his parents’ home land of Central America.  Mariano has been teaching dance at Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation’s After School a number of years and was excited to join the Arts to Grow’s roster of Teaching Artists in 2012.