SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Jacob Ezzo, South Orange Middle School's (SOMS) Choral Director, won first place in the 2017 Arts Ed Now “What’s Does an Arts Ed Now Ambassador Look Like” contest for the Middle School category.

As part of the Arts Ed Now campaign, arts educators in New Jersey were asked to create a three-photo storyboard to describe what it means to be an Ambassador. 

The storyboard Ezzo submitted highlighted a music concert with an eighth-grader conducting a student-arranged piece, students returning home after participating in the High Note Music Festival, and choir students writing letters as part of a community outreach program.

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Ezzo explained that he participated in the Arts Ed Now contest because he has made it his mission to re-define what a middle school choral program consists of. "Simply put, arts education is the only domain in which students have complete agency in the art that they create. Even though each ensemble strives for common goals in repertoire pieces for public performance, each child also has personal goals which creates both group and individual agency," Ezzo said.

New for the 2017-2018 school year, Ezzo hopes to make the SOMS Chorus department the first S.T.E.A.M.(Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) classroom in the state of New Jersey. Currently, Ezzo has introduced LittleBits (a modular STEM-based building system) and project-based learning into the 6th grade choral curriculum, and also has started an afterschool Robotics club to help empower students, especially girls, into the field of S.T.E.M., according to the Arts Ed website.