Mayor de Blasio And Chancellor Carranza Announce Paul Simon Music Fellows Program

February 10, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza today announced the launch of the Paul Simon Music Fellows Program for early-career music teachers, serving students in grades 6-12 from Harlem to Hollis. The program partners 20 fellows from across the five boroughs with veteran music teachers for one-on-one mentorship and skills training over the course of a school year. Each school will also receive an 11-week “artist-in-residence,” as well as a guest artist, curated by Simon, who will lead master classes for students. The fellowship launched in September for the 2019-20 school year with the first cohort of 20 middle and high school teachers citywide. Applications for the next cohort of up to 20 fellows will open in Summer 2020, to begin in the Fall of the 2020-21 school year.

In partnership with the Department of Education, the Paul Simon Music Fellows Program was established with a donation of $1 million from Paul Simon to the NYC Department of Education and Fund for Public Schools to invest in music programs, and promote comprehensive musicianship for New York City’s students through advanced teacher training and collaboration with professional musicians. The financial donation is the result of all net proceeds from the final hometown concert of Simon’s 2018 Homeward Bound – The Farewell Tour, which culminated in New York’s Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

“We want every child to feel the spark that comes from learning something they are passionate about. And so often, it’s taking up an instrument or performing for the first time that helps a young person come into their own,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This program will not only help our students explore music, but also help them succeed in school and life. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I want to thank Paul Simon for supporting this critical initiative.”

“School arts programs like the Music Fellows Program, when carefully guided and nurtured by dedicated teachers and gifted musicians, have the capacity to change and enrich students’ lives,” said Paul Simon. “As a graduate of the NYC public school system myself, I look forward to seeing the flowering of musical talent, and hearing what our city’s kids give us, as they take advantage of this new program.”

“Dedicated music teachers have opened so many doors for me, and I’m so excited for our first cohort of fellows, their students, and the incredible opportunities that will be afforded to them through this fellowship program,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “Thank you to Paul Simon for helping us further our investment in providing our city’s students with the high-quality arts education they deserve, and ensuring our hallways never sound of silence.”

“Wonderful to see Paul Simon giving back to the public school system that helped to shape him,” said Julie L. Shapiro, Chief Executive Officer of the Fund for Public Schools. “Our new partnership equips teachers to provide more of our City’s students with transformative experiences learning and performing music, ultimately cultivating the talents of the next generation of artists and leaders.”

The Paul Simon Music Fellows Program includes:

  • One-on-one mentorship with veteran music teachers. Fellows are matched with veteran music teacher mentors whose support includes in-person coaching to help strengthen instruction and write curriculum. Fellows are paired with mentors based on both teachers’ area of musical specialization (i.e. band, choir, guitar, modern band, orchestra, etc.) and geographic proximity.
  • Artists-in-residence for ensembles. Fellows and their schools will partner with New York City cultural institutions to receive an 11-week residency during which an artist-in-residence will work side-by-side with the Fellow and student ensembles, supporting teacher skill development and student performance. Cultural institutions will be carefully selected according to the needs and goals expressed by each Fellow and his or her school.
  • Guest artist master classes by Paul Simon-affiliated visiting musicians. Visiting artists will provide three master classes over the school year at each school, tailoring content and instruction to meet the needs of each school community. Guest artists will be skilled, professional musicians curated by Paul Simon, with expertise in a variety of musical traditions and genres.
  • Culminating performance. Fellows and students will incorporate their musical experiences and repertoire from the residency and guest artist master classes into a spring public performance, showcasing students’ musical skill development and achievements.

Mentor teachers were recruited through a rigorous selection process, and all have a demonstrated track record of excellence as teachers and performers. Mentors include the principal conductors of key music programs, including the All-City High School Music Program, Salute to Music Program, and the Summer Arts Institute. Some selected mentors have previously served as mentors for the National Association for Music Education Music Mentoring Pilot.

The Paul Simon Music Fellows program builds on unprecedented investments in arts education under the de Blasio administration, which together with the Equity and Excellence for All initiatives, is forging a pathway to success in college and careers for all students.

Senator Jose Serrano said: “As a longtime advocate for arts education, I have seen firsthand its power to change lives and its lifelong positive benefits. Studies have shown that students exposed to music programs have better attendance and higher grades and test scores in core academic subjects. This program is not only a wonderful opportunity for our dedicated music teachers but an important rung on the ladder of success for countless New York City youth who will benefit from excellent, high-quality music instruction. Thank you to Paul Simon, Mayor de Blasio, and Chancellor Carranza for their commitment to arts and music education.”

Senator Roxanne J. Persaud said: “It is well documented that children grow and strengthen their skills in mathematics, language arts, and science through strong music programs in the school. I applaud this partnership with the Paul Simon Music Fellows and the New York City Department of Education to help prepare music teachers and give them the tools to strengthen our communities’ youth. These skills will have a very important impact on students’ lives by opening doors to further opportunities in higher education.”

Assistant Speaker Felix W Ortiz said: “Music enhances a child’s life and helps them learn about different cultures. The Paul Simon program will help them expand their horizons and enrich their lives.”

Assemblymember Michael DenDekker said: “The Paul Simon Music Fellows Program is a welcome addition to New York City school curricula. I believe that a well-rounded education should include musical instruction so that our students can be encouraged to be more creative. I applaud the Department of Education for winning this wonderful grant.”

Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz said: “Music in schools is an incredibly important component to a well-rounded education. It is unfortunate that in recent years, music has not been as important a component in schools as it should have been or was in past decades. By giving more opportunities for young teachers to gain experience in our schools’ music programs, our children will hopefully have more access to music and music education will begin returning to schools that have previously lost it. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Education for launching this wonderful initiative, and I can’t wait to start seeing the results in our local schools in the Bronx.”

“The Paul Simon Music Fellows Program is a great gift to our public schools,” said Council Finance Chair Daniel Dromm. “As a former teacher, I know that arts are an integral part of every young person’s education. They motivate students to attend class and excel academically. Programs like these enhance the music education we provide to our students and can truly change lives for the better. Thank you, Paul Simon, for making this significant investment in our children’s futures.”

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