PLEASANTVILLE — On drums they created with buckets and colorful duct tape, students from the Washington Avenue School followed along with a professional instructor as they beat out different rhythms.
The instrumental lesson was one of several the students will receive thanks to a Young Audiences grant school music teacher Rosemarie Giunta applied for and won this year.
“Arts education is paramount, in my estimation, to excellent general education for the child,” Guinta said.
The grant came at the perfect time, as the school this year lost its instrumental music teacher to budget cuts.
“I wanted the kids to be able to do something with instruments,” Giunta said. “When I saw they had this percussion resident artist, I thought that would be an excellent opportunity for the kids.”
Young Audiences New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania is a nonprofit that supports arts education in New Jersey and Pennsylvania schools through programs funded in part by grants from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Department of State and Pennsylvania Council of the Arts.
Founded in 1973, the organization provides education resources and artist-in-residence programs in dance, theater, music, language and visual arts. Pleasantville’s Washington Avenue Elementary School was one of only nine schools to be selected for this grant.
Through the program, teaching artist Josh Robinson of Philadelphia comes weekly for five weeks to instruct one class from each of the second-, third- and fourth-grade levels.
“You need to be able to recognize your drum,” Robinson told the students, encouraging them to be creative and express themselves.
During his lesson, Robinson used vocabulary words to create a rhythm for the students to follow. He said that when he is teaching music, he is also teaching humanity, respect, language and cultural expression.
“The drum has absolutely given me a purpose on this planet,” Robinson said. “I think music could be a way for kids to build confidence.”
Principal Cynthia Ruiz-Cooper said the school was excited to receive the grant. She said it helps to fill some of the gaps in the music program.
“Providing quality arts programming to our students has always been a goal at Washington Avenue, but not always possible in these difficult economic times. With the help of Young Audiences we can now continue to offer our students inspiring, arts-rich experiences,” she said.
In addition to Robinson’s lessons, Giunta said the grant provided and paid for a percussion assembly for the entire school in February.