P.S. 22 Shows What Arts Can Do

by NYC Firm Schools on July 6, 2009

The Charleston Daily Mail carried the increasingly popular story of New York’s P.S. 22 school singers, who can count numerous Hollywood Celebrities and the Mayor amongst their many fans.

They’re a bunch of regular grade school kids, but their fans include Ashton Kutcher, Tori Amos and Perez Hilton – plus millions of YouTube viewers.
A New York fifth-grade chorus that first appeared on an online video has become world-famous, a cyber-phenomenon touted by top media outlets, celebrities and politicians.
And yet, the young singers from Public School 22 have rarely left Staten Island, a water-ringed New York City borough reached by ferry from Manhattan.

The children of the P.S. 22 Chorus have been a major feature on many news programs, both online and broadcast on major television, as well as being a bona fide YouTube hit.

Much of the credit goes to a music teacher who apparently is a natural at public relations. “A friend in advertising told me that if I ever want to leave teaching, I should come and work for them,” jokes the children’s music director, Gregg Breinberg.

The story of the P.S. 22 children isn’t one of privilege and private tutors, but of heart and dedication.

Breinberg started the elementary school chorus more then a decade ago, persuading the school to create one despite cuts in arts programs.
Many of the 70 kids come from struggling families, with about three-quarters of them eligible for free school lunches. Others have academic difficulties or are learning English as a second language.

“Honestly, I never imagined that things would take off for the chorus the way they have in the last few years,” says Breinberg. “But these kids have risen above tremendous obstacles and have made their voices heard.”

New York arts programs may be under the gun and cut out of many budgets, but these children and their dedicated music teacher have showed just how much the arts can change lives.

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