CAP students perform at summer soiree

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DSC 1390storyCAP students perform at summer soiree

By Claudia Mathis
      Staff writer

   It was cause for celebration. The students at Cathedral Academy at Pompei (CAP) in Syracuse had completed their first year of Imagine Syracuse’s Young Musicians Project. Their accomplishments were showcased on the evening of Aug. 9 during a fundraiser at Skaneateles Country Club when the school’s Children’s Classical Ensemble performed “Bile em Cabbage” and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”   

   Ellyn Lubel, a parishioner at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, felt extremely moved by the young people’s performance. “I’m so impressed by their ability to play such difficult instruments like the violin,” said Lubel.

   Since the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, 68 first through sixth grade students at CAP have taken part in intensive, daily, instrumental and choral instruction through Imagine Syracuse Young Musicians Project.    

   CAP is a school on the north side of Syracuse that educates children who are new to the U.S. and children who desire an international educational experience. The children learn in classrooms that are rich with linguistic, economic and ethnic diversity. The implementation of the project has enhanced the development of the unique school.

   Imagine Syracuse is a nonprofit organization that provides music instruction to children regardless of their socio-economic circumstances. Professional musicians and certified instructors have taught violin, viola, cello, French horn, trumpet, flute, oboe, African drum and dance, Brazilian rhythm ensemble and choir to CAP students every day in this last school year.

   It is believed that students with a solid music foundation achieve higher SAT, math and English language arts scores. Also, according to the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, music promotes a habit of excellence and teamwork, develops a quick mind and discipline and encourages positive social and emotional behaviors.  

   After the soiree’s cocktail hour, Msgr. J. Robert Yeazel, diocesan Vicar General and pastor at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, served as the honorary host for the evening. He welcomed everyone and offered an invocation.

   Noting the importance of music, Msgr. Yeazel said, “Many of us here tonight have found peace in our days and calmness in our hurried world through the gift of music. The education world has found that it is also a blessed vehicle for children to grow academically, spiritually and emotionally.”

   Prior to the children’s performance,
Dr. Patricia Schmidt, CAP’s Development Director and the person responsible for introducing the musician’s project to CAP’s students, gave an update on CAP. She said that the students’ math and language skills have increased significantly from their involvement in the music project and through the efforts of CAP teachers and a new leadership team. In addition, she said, the children’s concentration has improved and they have become more compassionate to their fellow musicians.

   After that, Jessie Keating, Executive Director of Imagine Syracuse, gave an introduction to the program. El Sistema, a global movement in music education that began 35 years ago in Venezuela, inspired it. The New England Conservatory in Boston started an El Sistema fellowship program four years ago and then Imagine Syracuse joined the movement.   

   Keating offered some data on how the children’s academic scores had improved over the last year. The class of 2012’s math scores of students who scored average or above average on New York State timed mathematics tests jumped from 30 percent during the 2010/2011 school year to 57 percent in the 2011/2012 school year. The math scores for the class of 2013 jumped from 13 percent to 26 percent.

   English language arts test scores also reflected an increase. It is important to note, however, that the scores reflect an obstacle in the students’ retrieval of words. 80 percent of CAP children are bilingual. Researchers have discovered that children who speak other languages, along with English, use several word systems. As a result, word retrieval is slowed and assessment results are not authentic in a timed test. The class of 2012’s score of 18 percent in the 2010/20111 school year jumped to 47 percent the following year. The class of 2013’s score of 25 percent soared to 43 percent.

   Keating mentioned that the young musicians have partnered with the Syracuse Children’s Chorus, the Society For New Music’s children’s opera and Jazz in the City. They have performed at Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel as well as at area churches, schools and parks and on busses.

   Keating told the story about one student overcoming stage fright during a concert while playing his trumpet. “Collyn Edwards walked off that stage a new man,” said Keating. “We are building character, people. Musical skills are just a bonus.”

   The children gave a stellar performance for those who attended the soiree that night. Ayali Yal, who graduated from CAP in June and will attend Bishop Grimes in the fall, played the cello. Looking back on her music and academic education at CAP, Ayali said, “I had fun learning the rhythm of playing the cello and I liked playing at the Cathedral. I like CAP — it’s a great place.”

   Jordan Holder played the flute. She said she has enjoyed the experience a great deal. “I liked performing in all the different places and meeting new people,” Jordan said. She added that she was surprised at the amount of music ability that she possesses.

   Athyang Aman, who also played the flute, said at first she balked at playing the instrument, but now it is her favorite. “It’s really cool,” Athyang said. “I’d like to inspire people to play the flute.”

   Keating said that Imagine Syracuse is on its last legs with funding from foundation grants. “If we are to continue, we must become sustainable,” Keating said. “Syracuse must decide to go against the grain, to keep music an integral and accessible fixture in education for every child.”

   Imagine Syracuse’s vision is to build a Catholic school music initiative that would bring weekly, low-cost instrument lessons to Catholic elementary schools in the county. These lessons would help subsidize the free program at CAP.

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