Conservatory spearheads musical outreach

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/03/30/nec-programs-foster-urban-cultural-renewal/

The New England Conservatory is at the forefront of cultural renewal in Boston’s urban neighborhoods. Through their Community Performances & Partnerships Program, musicians offer free concerts at homeless shelters, public schools, hospitals, rehabilitative facilities, community centers, and other diverse venues.

Created in 2003 to bring classical music to underserved constituencies, CPP students perform and teach at over 125 sites around the city. Last year alone, the NEC program served over 11,000 people, including 6,000 youths.

NEC Community Performances and Partnerships Program (credit: Tanya Maggi)

NEC Community Performances and Partnerships Program (credit: Tanya Maggi)

It is daunting task, but well worth the effort according to the program’s director, Tanya Maggi. “Through the CPP program, NEC students are given the opportunity to make music relevant to people in all corners of the Boston community — from preschool children to senior citizens, from hospital patients to library patrons,” she observed.

“NEC students can be found outside the walls of the conservatory, enthusiastically performing, teaching, and interacting with members of the community, and in doing so, are knocking down barriers and redefining what it means to be a 21st century musician.”

Nearly 300 conservatory students participated in the program last year. Although their studies are intensive, both undergraduate and graduate students contribute their time and talent to cultivate the musical sensibilities of the community. Maggi explained that close interaction with the public helps make the classical world more approachable. “On just about any day of the school year,” she noted, “NEC students can be found outside the walls of the conservatory, enthusiastically performing, teaching, and interacting with members of the community, and in doing so, are knocking down barriers and redefining what it means to be a 21st century musician.”

NEC’s broad range of audiences is remarkable. In March, for example, their students performed at diverse places, such as the Immigrant Family Services Institute in Roslindale, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the Café Emmanuel senior center, Margarita Muniz Academy in Jamaica Plain, the Chestnut Hill Benevolent Association, and Bunker Hill Community College. They even regaled weary commuters with “Bach in the Subways.”

NEC Community Performances and Partnerships Program (credit: Tanya Maggi)

NEC Community Performances and Partnerships Program (credit: Tanya Maggi)

“The CPP program has long-standing relationships with so many public institutions in Boston — the Boston Public Schools, the Boston Public Library, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, along with numerous hospitals, senior facilities, rehabilitative care facilities, youth programs, and cultural landmarks,” Maggi said. “Over time, the connections with these partners have grown deep and sustainable roots that have contributed in small and large ways to daily life in our community.”

Young audiences in urban communities remain a top priory for the conservatory’s outreach endeavors. Through their Academic Partnerships, for instance, the NEC participates with other schools and educational programs to help children with limited access to classical music. These initiatives are more necessary than ever, since many school districts have either cut or severely curtailed their music programs.

“We are in fact seeing the amazing face of a new musician, one with both the skills and eagerness to connect artistry and community.”

Maggi gave a sampling of the activities that CPP hosts for young people: “From musical storytelling programs that link music and early emergent literacy in Boston Public School kindergarten classrooms, to our songwriting workshops for adolescents in psychiatric care at McClean Psychiatric Hospital, we are continually working with our partners to find the most effective avenues for making music meaningful and relevant.”

Urban audiences are not the only beneficiaries of NEC’s programs: the students themselves gain valuable skills performing in non-traditional milieux. Their experiences develop them both on a personal and professional level, since they share the gift of their talent with a broad array of people. “One of the most surprising aspects of the program has been the effect it has had on the performers themselves, in that it connects them back to the core of why they are passionate about making music,” Maggi explained.

(Courtesy of NEC)

(Courtesy of NEC)

Since many neighborhoods are not within easy reach of Boston’s concert halls, the CPP encourages students to perform outside the city’s conventional venues. “For many, it is a complete revelation that music can truly open pathways of connection between people and make for stronger communities,” Maggi elaborated. “Because these students are just starting their journey as professional musicians, the hope is that these seeds that are planted while in school will ‘move the dial’ on the role our next generation of musicians will play in their communities.”

The CPP program acts like a chrysalis for students, challenging them to think beyond the familiar cocoon of their conservatory surroundings. Maggi described the transformative potential of that experience: “Now that the program has a robust number of alumni — over 600 and counting — we are in fact seeing the amazing face of a new musician, one with both the skills and eagerness to connect artistry and community.”

(Courtesy of NEC)

(Courtesy of NEC)

Contact Mary McCleary at [email protected].

NBPUrban

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