Trenton Community Music School- The Future of Music Education in Trenton

When people think of Trenton, what comes to mind is a city in disrepair. Trenton used to be an essential manufacturing city that thrived. As the sign says, “Trenton Makes, the World Takes.” With so many factories now closed, Trenton is now making something else—music.

“We think every child should have music,” said Marcia Wood, the founder of the Trenton Community Music School.

Wood grew up in Princeton and raised her two children there. Music was always an integral part of the curriculum in her children’s school. Wood founded the Trenton Community Music School 15 years ago so every child could have the opportunity to make music.

The School originally provided individual lessons to students in Trenton. Teachers would meet with students on a weekly basis and learn how to play various instruments. Recently The School has implemented a music class once a week into pre-school classes through a program called “Music for the Very Young.” A supreme court ruling called the Abbott Ruling mandated that 31 districts provide pre-school for children. When Wood heard this, she thought incorporating a music program for those pre school students would be the next chapter in the School’s book.

By incorporating music into the classroom at such a young age, students learn about rhythm- an essential part of learning how to read. The Mattel Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit that works toward benefiting the lives of children, awarded the Trenton Community Music School with an award in 2003 for an Exemplary Literacy Program for Young Children.

Music also provides social benefits to students. It’s common for families to frequently move around in Trenton, this forces children to change school districts. By having the same music program in place at all Trenton public schools, children are able to socialize with ease and smooth the transition of changing schools.

Another element of the Trenton Community Music School is El Sistema. El Sistema is a children’s orchestra for children age 7-10. Wood believes that every child is fundamentally musical. “A child will choose, it’s almost a mystery, an instrument that identifies with their soul,” she said.

One of Wood’s most rewarding experiences in the program was when a student who came from a violent home began taking lessons at the Trenton Community Music School. When this student picked up a saxophone, he was able to express himself in a way that words could not. This is just one student out of many that was touched by The Trenton Community Music School.

While Trenton Community Music School does not teach music history, Wood is certain that the current superintendent of Trenton Public Schools is committed to seeing the art programs in Trenton succeed. Wood believes that the Trenton Makes Music Project is something truly special and that Trenton’s history is very unique.

Wood has since stepped down from her position of Executive Director and has retired from The School. She has since been replaced by Carol Burden. Wood remains passionate about the project and it’s development in the future. She recognizes the problems Trenton is facing but remains optimistic that things can improve. Wood believes that music education in schools is just one way to revive the city of Trenton.

“I believe it’s magic…it will turn things around,” said Wood.

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