BERKELEY HEIGHTS—Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts (WIPA) has been a fixture in the Berkeley Heights community for close to a decade, with its Performing Arts School tucked off Snyder Avenue directly across from the Berkeley Heights Community Pool, but few local residents realize its connection to two other NJ towns—New Providence and Paterson. The Performing Arts School was once housed in the same location as its orchestral and ensemble division, the New Jersey Youth Symphony, and its El Sistema-inspired program, the Paterson Music Project, continues to grow thirty miles away in Paterson. The thread connecting these seemingly disparate performing arts education programs is the not-for-profit’s mission: To provide the highest quality performing arts education to a wide range of students in a supportive and inclusive environment, where striving for personal excellence inspires and connects those they teach to the communities they serve. Nothing exemplifies this more than 9-year-old Alexander Salamon’s recent instrument donation to the Paterson Music Project.

Alexander Salamon of Florham Park, a third grader at The Peck School, is a student at WIPA’s Performing Arts School, where he takes piano and flute lessons with faculty members Luba Vasilyeva and Kristen Wuest. He has studied the flute for a little under a year, but in that short amount of time his remarkable dedication and steady progress encouraged his parents to invest in a new instrument to help further his studies. Inspired by the work at WIPA’s Paterson Music Project, Alexander offered to donate his old instrument to a child in need in Paterson.

Says Alexander’s flute instructor, Kristen Wuest, “When his parents decided to purchase Alexander a new and improved instrument, he decided to donate his old one to PMP because he didn’t have a need for it anymore and he wanted it to help another child create and express themselves just as he has been able to at the Performing Arts School. Alexander is one of the most gifted students I teach. He is incredibly musical, diligent with his practice, and has come a LONG way in a short twelve months of studying flute. Playing the flute came naturally to him from the first time he picked up the instrument. I hope his progress continues its upward trend, and I hope his instrument donation to the Paterson Music Project provides another talented student with the same opportunities.”

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Based in Paterson, New Jersey, the Paterson Music Project (PMP) uses music as a vehicle for social change by empowering and inspiring children through the community experience of ensemble learning and playing. PMP provides intensive, low-tuition musical training to students throughout Paterson after school. Students study a primary instrument (violin, cello, viola, bass, clarinet, flute, or trumpet) and participate in ensemble practice and instrumental sectionals. Students also study music theory, music history, aural training, and singing. Students perform frequently for the school and community.


PMP launched its first site at the Community Charter School of Paterson in January 2013 with 32 second graders and has since added a new class of students each year. In January 2015, PMP partnered with the Paterson Public Schools to open a second site serving students from Paterson Public School 1 and 26. Most recently, through the support of a 21st Century Learning Grant, PMP began a Woodwinds and Brass Program in January 2016 at the Community Charter School of Paterson Middle School. There are now over 200 students in the program across the city grades 1-8.

For more information on all of WIPA’s programs, visit


The Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts’ mission is to provide the highest quality performing arts education to a wide range of students in a supportive and inclusive environment, where striving for personal excellence inspires and connects those we teach to the communities we serve.


Wharton is New Jersey’s largest independent non-profit community performing arts education center serving over 1,400 students through a range of classes and ensembles including the 14 ensembles of the New Jersey Youth Symphony which serve 500 students in grades 3 - 12. Beginning with Early Childhood music classes for infants and toddlers, WIPA offers private lessons, group classes and ensembles for all ages and all abilities. We believe in the positive and unifying influence of music and the performing arts and believe that arts education should be accessible to all people regardless of their ability to pay. We teach all instruments and voice and have a robust musical theatre program.


The Paterson Music Project is Wharton’s El Sistema-inspired program held at the Community Charter School of Paterson and Paterson Public School 1/26. Students receive 6 hours of intensive music instruction each week with the goal of creating social change through the ambitious pursuit of musical excellence.


Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts is located in Berkeley Heights, New Providence and Paterson, NJ and reaches students from 13 counties. All of WIPA’s extraordinary faculty members and conductors hold degrees in their teaching specialty and have been vetted and trained to enable our students to achieve their personal best.