The stories and music of people like Paul Potts and Susan Boyle move us, and rightly so — there’s something so profound about they way their voices confound our preconceived notions about them, based primarily on their outward appearance.
But today, via Eugene Cho, I came across a story and a song that brought me to tears.
At PS22 in New York City, a school where over three quarters of the students are eligible for free lunch, the PS22 Chorus of fifth graders — led by their teacher Mr. B (Gregg Breinberg) — are making some incredible music. A brief description from one article:
As Breinberg plays, he makes eye contact with the kids, coaxing performances from them and letting them enjoy themselves. Later, Davoya, one of the chorus members, explains how he does it. “At first, when I sang, I had no emotion,” she says. “I didn’t move. But Mr. B taught me to sing with feeling. With feeling and heart.”
Feeling and heart (along with an unusual repertoire) is what has made the ps 22 Chorus famous. In the last two years, this small, elementary-school choir has piqued the interest of people all over the world: music lovers and parents but also a random, devoted cross-section of the World Wide Web…
It’s easy to forget, watching the chorus achieve such extraordinary success, that a lot of its members are from disadvantaged backgrounds. Breinberg says that several of the students in the chorus are from special education and English as a Second Language programs. “It’s one of the more rewarding aspects of my profession to see so many of our kids who have difficulties in other areas of academics thrive within the choral environment,” he says. “People often lose sight of how important music is to the education of these kids.”
There something true and beautiful about joy, freedom, expression and soul when they’re cultivated in the midst of adversity. Music can be so much more than notes on a page, especially in the lives of kids. As Eugene wrote:
Invest in kids. Believe in kids. Love on kids. Build them up. I was reminded of a quote from Frederick Douglass: “It is easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men (grown-ups).”
Below, you can watch the PS22 Chorus perform Viva La Vida by Coldplay and You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban: