NJFO Mentoring Program
Since 2000, the cultural community of New Jersey, especially in underserved areas, has experienced cutbacks in State and Federal support for its cultural outreach activities. For underserved youth, more than ever, assistance is needed in navigating the practical aspects of, and actually experiencing, cultural activities which enhance the meaningfulness of their lives, their spiritual and cultural awareness, and the participation in the life of their artistic communities otherwise limited by their financial or social condition. In response to this, the NJFO’s mission encompasses cultural programs specifically for underserved youth, in targeted areas of New Jersey that are economically disadvantaged (specifically Arts high School, Newark, NJ), with the goal of overcoming the barriers inherent with their situation.
The NJFO, working closely with the Newark Board of Education, has continued with an invaluable mentoring program first introduced to Newark Arts High by the Colonial Symphony, which is no longer in business. Due to the firm commitment of the New Jersey Festival Orchestra to continue such activities, we have actively fundraised, and partially absorbed the costs of such programs, thus continuing our tradition of serving disadvantaged youth for over 30 years. In an effort to sustain and expand these activities, we look to various philanthropic organizations and individuals as community partners to make these essential services available.
In context of the specific activities of the project, teachers with large music programs such as at Arts High School are limited in their ability to teach and mentor each student to the fullest, especially in music since their specific training is on one instrument. Having the opportunity to bring in world-class performers on every instrument affords an individual experience for their students that raise expectations on many levels - it increases what is musically possible for students to achieve, many of whom otherwise do not receive private musical instruction. If they are fortunate enough in rare circumstances to receive private lessons, material covered mostly never includes music being performed in their respective ensembles. This focuses student success in the ensemble to a higher level resulting in higher self esteem and program growth.
Through the Master Classes the instrumental students have rewarding interaction with the professionals who both coach and mentor. At the Joint Concert at the culmination of the master class process, the entire audience - both students and parents - benefits from the concert given by NJFO musicians sitting side by side with the students. This helps to raise the artistic level of the performance significantly, and at the same time, empower students performing.
The interaction of our musicians with the students in the privacy of the classroom setting is the highlight of our program. While the concert outcome is important, it is the process by which students are inspired in an intimate setting that remains the highlight of this collaboration. Through the numerous programs the NJFO have presented modeled on this proposal, each time there is a palpable excitement among the faculty and students when NJFO musicians come to mentor, teach, and perform as part of the school environment. These programs have helped to inspire students to attend college as music majors.