• Access Leads to Inspiration: Jerry Phelps on Count Me In

    The Weill Music Institute is wrapping up the Count Me In vocal program with middle school students in Queens, Manhattan, Bronx, and Brooklyn. These workshops offer the basics of how to sing in a choir and are aimed at middle school students in schools without a full-time choral program. Count Me In prepares students for the audition process at performing arts high schools and community-based choirs.

    We recently sat down with teacher Jerry Phelps from Democracy Preparatory School in Harlem to talk about his Count Me In experience.

    What drew you to the Count Me In Program? What does it have to offer you and your students?

    I was drawn to the Count Me In program because it offered an opportunity for my scholars to participate in a high level, rigorous choral environment. It has also offered me the opportunity to observe choral directors and get new and fresh ideas and specific teaching techniques.

    Count Me In 
    Count Me In students rehearsing with music director Chantel Wright. Photo by Nan Melville.

    Can you tell us the story of an individual student who has been affected by this program?

    Last year, I had a student that had always been interested in singing and choral music. However, she had never really been given a chance to experience that outside of her immediate environment. She excelled in the program and is now in the eighth grade and will definitely be auditioning for performing arts high schools. This program has given her the necessary skills to go into the audition confident that she has what is takes to succeed and be offered a seat.

    Why is it important for students to have access to music at this age?

    The middle school years are often the most important in terms of musical experiences and exposure. It is during these formative, impressionable years that young teenagers begin to decide what is and isn't acceptable and "cool." I often find that when they are given access to a variety of musical genres and musical experiences, they discover that they actually enjoy more than just pop music.

    After two years of working with the program, what can you say about the impact it has had on you and your students?

    This program has had a tremendous impact on my scholars and me. It has helped me build a strong and solid foundation for my general music program and has generated a genuine interest in choral singing. In addition, to be associated with Carnegie Hall and its top-quality programs is an honor. I look forward to many more years of partnership in creating quality music education experiences for young people.

    Count Me In: Afterschool Choral Initiative