Rhode Island Philharmonic and Papitto Opportunity Connection Expand Music Education Access

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Barbara Papitto, founder and trustee of the Papitto Opportunity Connection explains why expanding music education access through the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School is so important. Photo by Andrew Lagace.

The Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School is making music education even more accessible to local elementary school children with support from the Papitto Opportunity Connection. Yesterday at Agnes. At Little Elementary School in Pawtucket, the organization announced its plans to expand its diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

“As we’ve been evolving as an organization over many years, and especially the last decade, we thought about the changes we wanted to help make in this community,” says RI Phil’s Executive Director David Beauchesne. “One of those changes we wanted to make was to make sure that every child in the state of Rhode Island, no matter where they lived, no matter where they went to school, no matter how much money their families had, that they would have access to a high-quality music education. ”

And Rhode Island Philharmonic is delivering on that promise, thanks to funding from the POC. “When David told us about his plan, we knew instantly that it would become one of the first signature programs funded by the Papitto Opportunity Connection,” says POC founder and trustee Barbara Papitto. “At POC we invest in unique programs and help to break down the barriers of education, job skills training and entrepreneurship for people of color. Our goal is to create pathways of success for individuals who have not always had opportunities. ”

Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School is increasing financial aid for the Music School and expanding access to the Philharmonic’s Link Up education program in elementary schools throughout the region. They are also expanding the Victoria’s Dream Project (VDP) from Agnes. E Little Elementary School to Henry J. Winters Elementary School in Pawtucket. In conjunction, the RI Phil is also participating in an independent four-year research study with Brown University’s Urban Education Policy Program Director Dr. Kenneth Wong to analyze the effects of Link Up and VDP on participating Pawtucket school district students. The study will “track the musical, academic and social-emotional growth of participating students, and determine if the program helps narrow systemic achievement gaps for children of color in Rhode Island and elsewhere.”

Victoria’s Dream Project is a string instruction program for third through fifth graders, available at the Agnes Little Elementary School and soon the Henry B. Winters Elementary School, both located in Pawtucket in communities with concentrated poverty where students experience achievement gaps. Victoria’s Dream is named after Victoria Alviti, who tragically lost her life. Her mother, Sharon Alviti, founded this project to be her daughter’s namesake as part of the Victoria Alviti Music Foundation. Victoria loved music in elementary school, where she played the recorder, the violin and piano, and she eventually became a well-known deejay before she died.

“Victoria felt every student regardless of their economic background should have the opportunity to experience the positive impact music can have in their lives,” Sharon Alviti says. “Today Victoria’s dream is a reality. Victoria’s Dream Project is changing lives one note at a time. I am thrilled to see this program expand into a new school thanks to the generous support of the Papitto Opportunity Connection. ”

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Photo by Andrew Lagace.

Papitto Opportunity Connection advisory board member and Rhode Island Philharmonic board member Ting Barnard weighs in. She says it is important for children of color to be able to see people that look like them teaching them and doing the things they aspire to do, and that starts with granting access to make it happen. “We see firsthand how music education can greatly improve a young person’s creativity and overall mental health. We know anecdotally it also encourages focus, discipline and achievement in schools, especially in areas of math and science, ”she says. “This amazing investment through POC will give young students pathways to expand their creativity both personally and professionally. It will give them the ability to play an instrument of their choice, perhaps audition for a seat at the orchestra, or even later pursue a career as a full-time musician if they so desire. ”

The program will give students the tools and access they need to succeed. “So truly, the sky’s the limit when a person does not have barriers that limit his or her potential to dream big,” Barnard says. “I’m hopeful that the investment and commitment by POC and RI Phil will have a longstanding legacy, one that will profoundly impact our communities of color by keeping art, creativity and music alive.”

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