This summer, Grand Vision Foundation (GVF) offered “Summer Sing!” to local middle schools. The program, which combines vocals and percussion in a lively curriculum, is GVF’s first Meet the Music (MTM) program for middle schoolers and our first summer program. Summer Sing! was established as an option for LAUSD schools to use their new Cultural Arts Passport arts education funding. As GVF’s Music Director, Sukari Reid-Glenn said, “we have been looking for ways to bring the Meet the Music programming into middle school, to extend the success of our elementary school curricula. It’s important to keep the students excited about making music and learning about the arts.”  Five schools incorporated Summer Sing! into their summer curricula and over 400 students participated.

Similar to Grand Vision’s elementary school Roots of Music Program (RoMP) but at a higher grade level, Summer Sing! students learned music fundamentals, music’s impact and place in history and the core basics of singing, all through a global lens. Summer Sing! also aims to liven up students’ summer school experience and inspire them to creatively express themselves. Recognizing that young people in this age group often struggle with their self-image and are concerned about peer judgment, GVF included a percussion element for those uncomfortable singing in front of their peers. Additionally, GVF’s teaching artists encouraged students to participate in activities voluntarily, rather than mandatorily.

Teaching Artist Lupe proudly cheers on her Meet the Music Students, Photo by Taso Papadakis.

Teaching Artist Lupe Cheers on Meet the Music Students

While this new program is modeled after RoMP, Summer Sing! introduces two higher level musical terms: arrange and genre. Where elementary school students in RoMP study and sing multiple songs, the middle schoolers studied different versions of songs then made their own arrangements. With their instruments and/or voices, each student or group of students worked industriously on their arrangements in preparation for a performance on the last day of class.

Many of the Summer Sing students were noticeably uneasy at the start of the program. But as GVF’s Music Education Coordinator, Lupe Montiel reported, “one of the most significant aspects of the experience was seeing the students come out of their shells.” It was clear that as the summer progressed, the students grew more comfortable with the teaching artists and the musical content and their own creative abilities began to shine. Once the students connected with a certain song, they ran with it, each one discovering their artistic preferences – and also having fun, of course!

An overall success, Summer Sing! achieved exactly what it set out to do; each student in the program felt inspired, both by the things they learned in their classes and by their own musical abilities, to express themselves in ways they couldn’t have expected and to make a difference within the creative sphere. We hope that this is just the beginning of MTM’s expansion into LAUSD middle schools, as these results prove that middle school students can benefit from the curricula just as much as our elementary school students already do. In any case, GVF is immensely proud of the MTM staff of teaching artists for their accomplishment with their first summer program!