Legendary Queens Singer/Songwriter Paul Simon is homeward bound and changing his classic tune Me And Julio Down in The Schoolyard to down in the schoolroom.
That after Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza and Simon, who has earned 16 Grammy awards including three for Album of the Year (Bridge Over Troubled Water, Still Crazy After All These Years, and Graceland), and a Lifetime Achievement Award, announced this week that Simon will put up $1 million to fund a fellowship, and be a visiting teacher in a masters class with 40 public middle and high school music teachers over two years.
“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 Simon. “As a graduate of the NYC public school system myself [Forest Hills High School and Queens College graduate], 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.”
Dubbed the Paul Simon Music Fellows Program for early-career music teachers, serving students in grades 6-12, 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 a 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.
“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 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.”
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.
Lawmakers from both Brooklyn and Queens hailed the announcement.
“It is well documented that children grow and strengthen their skills in mathematics, language arts, and science through strong music programs in 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,” said State Sen. Roxanne J. Persaud (Canarsie, East New York, Brownsville, Mill Basin, Sheepshead Bay, Bergen Beach, Marine Park, Flatlands, Mill Island, Georgetown, Ocean Hill).
“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,” said Assemblymember Michael DenDekker (D-Woodside, Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst).
“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,” said Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix W Ortiz (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook).
“The Paul Simon Music Fellows Program is a great gift to our public schools,” said City Council Finance Chair Daniel Dromm (D-East Elmhurst, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights). “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.”