PATERSON, NJ- The auditorium at JFK High School doubled for an orchestra hall on Saturday as more than 200 musicians from across the city showed off their skills in front of proud parents, siblings, and other family members.

With students from the Community Charter School of Paterson, School 1, School 15, School 26, and the Norman S. Weir Elementary School playing, the Paterson Music Project’s Spring 2018 Concert performances highlighted the talents that have been developed through the program that “uses music as a vehicle for social change.”

“When students study music seriously, it can open all kinds of doors such as performance, travel, and scholarship opportunities,” the program’s director, Elizabeth Moulthrop, told TAPinto Paterson. With opportunities to learn instruments ranging from clarinet and flute, to viola and cello, as well as how to use their voices and play a number of percussion instruments, from professional “teaching artists,” the students, Moulthrop continued, “develop life skills such as focus, perseverance, discipline, confidence, teamwork, and leadership.”

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Paterson Board of Education Commissioner Vince Arrington, whose daughter was among the performers, expressed his appreciation for the fact that the Paterson Music Project has “no agenda.”

“They are sincerely here for our kids.”

The discipline the children develop through the learning, Arrington said, is meaningful not just as it related to their Saturday performance, but also "across all aspects of life.” Arrington is also hopeful that the program is one step towards brining back the famed “Marching 100” Eastside High School Marching Band, a goal Paterson Superintendent Eileen Shafer has also shared publicly.

The importance of learning an instrument wasn’t lost on the students either, including 10-year old Leander who plays both percussion and violin. A program participant for three years, the young musician said that getting better through practice “makes him feel good,” and takes his mind off video games. 

Maricruz Castillo was also in the audience to watch her niece. Ashley, 11, Castillo said, is “always talking about her music.” 

Thanks to the Paterson Music Project, which Castillo called “empowering,” the children are finding “enriching” ways to fill their free time. 

While Castillo said she and her family encourage Ashley to keep playing so that she can one day “play in a big orchestra,” Moulthrop said the goals are much more immediate.

“We are not training all of our students to become professional musicians, but we are training them to be citizens and successful adults,” she said. “Working in a group setting within an orchestra, choir, or band develops community and pride.”