Most people, when thinking about cities with a rich musical past, think of places like Nashville and New Orleans, but few think of Trenton as a city that falls into that category. However, a large quantity of musicians have come out of the city of Trenton, such as Sarah Dash, part of the pop group Labelle, and Maury Muehleisen, who was the lead guitarist for Jim Croce. However, even many people from the city, do not know of its musical heritage. I surveyed music teachers in the public schools of Trenton about what they teach the students in their classes regarding their cities history, and how Trenton Makes music can help with their endeavors. Public Schools are on area where many of the cities children learn, so it is the optimal location for teaching about such an important subject related to their home, teaching in the classroom would help reach the most amount of people possible.
When I asked some students about what their impressions were of Trenton, many had the opinion of it being a run down city, filled with gangs and violence. Few had any clue that Trenton had a rich musical past, and even then, when asked about what music they thought came out of Trenton, everyone I asked assumed hip hop, and rap music. Everyone was surprised when I talked a little about the kinds of musicians that came out of the city, from famous classical musicians, to jazz performers, and even when I mentioned Sarah Dash and how she was a background singer for the rolling stones. These surveys of students help show that Trenton has a negative reputation and a project like the Trenton Makes Music project can help that reputation by educating the public.
I then went and asked some music educators in Trenton public schools about if and how they teach Trenton music to their students in the classroom. When asked, no classes had a section in their curriculum that was set aside to talk about the musical past of Trenton, and the cities musicians. However, the teachers all try to add in lessons related to Trenton whenever it would fit into their current topic of focus, such as to fill in sections of their curriculum that is designated for music history. It was after this that I talked shortly about the Trenton Makes Music project, about how it aims to gather resources about Trenton’s musical past, and asked them a little bit about how this type of resource might be useful to them.
The teachers agreed that the Trenton Makes Music project can be very helpful in lessons for their students related to Trenton. With the database of music and other related media, they would be able to help supplement any lessons that would be planned in their classrooms. Having access to interviews and recollections about the past were also things believed to be able to be helpful with their students learning. Additionally, their students would be able to access the project for their own research independent of class, and knowledge of the project would spread through their connections to parents and friends. The collection of songs and videos of Trenton music was thought to be very important as the biggest way for the students to gain interest in the information of the project. They believed that this could be an important tool in sparking interest in their students.
Additionally, in their school bands, they said they would consider trying to add more pieces that are from Trenton born musicians and composers. Trenton had many important musicians that would fall under that category, and names such as George Antheil quickly came to mind. For the students, playing songs that were created in Trenton, or by people from Trenton, would help spark interest in the musical and cultural accomplishments of the cities past. Hopefully, this would push them to explore this further and deepen the student’s appreciation for their city, and for music in general.
The Trenton Makes Music project aims to inform and educate the public about the musical past of the city of Trenton, and help spark changes that come with this new knowledge spread out to the city’s people. The project contains a collection of sources related to the subject matter, and I believe there is no better way to spread the information then to have educators teach it to their students in the classroom. Hopefully, the students will pass it on to their parent and friends, and this new knowledge can only spread outwards from there.