Funding keeps music program on beat

Patrick Urban, right, and fourth-grade music class rests in “ready position” before playing.

To see the auditorium stage filled with xylophones, keyboards and bucket drums (tall trash cans) is a vast difference from the once barren landscape of simply desks and chairs that was once called the music room.

Seven years ago, the music department at General George G. Meade School was introduced to Musicopia — a non-profit organization that restores musical education programs in schools. Through this partnership, students were given resources, opportunities and dreams of musical talents.

Recently, the Knight Foundation, through its Knight Arts Challenge, gave Musicopia a $90,000 grant which will be used for programming at Meade.

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“We built it and they came. That’s how I can describe it. The kids are very humble and appreciative. They’re now going to be well resourced as their suburban contemporaries. So the playing field has now been leveled — which is wonderful,” Meade music teacher, Patrick Urban said.

This 2006 Temple University alum has spent his six-year career teaching musical education at Meade. Along with learning about instruments, rhythms and notes, students learn discipline and respect.

“When I walked in [the school], I could tell that there was something special about the music program, but it wasn’t until I saw the management. Mr. Urban can walk away and the kids can play. It’s a seamless operation. That’s what you see in these kids. They monitor one another, so it’s amazing just to see,” Principal Rosalind Tharpe said.

“He’s a rocking teacher because he teaches us stuff that we like to play,” fourth-grader and cellist, Tony White said.

“He comes up with the coolest beats,” fourth-grader Ashanti Armstrong said.

Fourth-grader, Tatyana Owens plays violin and xylophone. She expressed her sentiments about having music class.  

“My favorite thing is that you get to learn how to use different instruments. I love the violin because I always wanted to play it since the third grade. I wanted to play the violin because it’s just a calm instrument and it’s fun to play,” Owens said.

She even mentioned that she wants to continue her musical studies in high school.    

“When you get to high school, you could be famous when you get older. People will want to learn from you,” Owens said.

Urban also leads an after-school drumline program. Executive director of Musicopia, Denise Kinney

said the drumline program enriches students’ lives.

“This is really an alternative. They perform and compete across the tri-county area. It’s very based on discipline and commitment and hard work and all the things you’re going to need to be successful in life,” Kinney said.

“I would like to be apart of the drumline because they make awesome beats and watching them inspires me to make music,” fourth-grader Jhyir Champion said.

“I think it’s a very empowering program and empowerment is very important to a community that is very often disempowered. So that’s why this is such a transformative program,” Urban said.

From the grant, Meade will continue to develop more musical opportunities for students.

“The Musicopia program is apart of the Meade culture. I’d like to see that program extend and grow. I’d [like] us to have a choir,” Tharpe said.

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