City Initiative

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"I have personally witnessed the musical growth and appreciation of many of the New Haven students while studying at NMS. As these students developed musical knowledge their love of muisic and the arts led them to pursue areas they had never dreamed of. This year, five of the NHPS students deeply involved in the City Initiative program became proud, first-in-famiuly college freshmen. Four of them are pursuing a career in music education and the fifth is maintaining his music involvement in college ensembles." 
                                         - Garth Harries, Superintendent, New Haven Public Schools
                                            March 2015

“Neighborhood Music School gathers inner city students like me into a positive environment with teachers willing to teach and raise us into the best musicians we can be…The school has helped me to push for a better life… something to keep me off the streets.”

                                                  – Justin Lewis, City Initiative Student

About City Initiative Our dynamic City Initiative program, a partnership between NMS, NHPS and the Yale School of Music (YSM), now in its eighth year, offers free individualized musical instruction, performance and mentoring opportunities for 50-60 middle and high school students in 13 New Haven Public Schools (NHPS), promoting academic success and leadership skills, and setting them on track for college; in the past two years, all City Initiative graduating seniors were accepted into college.

Beginning this program in seventh grade enables students to engage with NMS at an age when they are able to demonstrate true dedication to their musical education and helps them develop a six-year relationship with the NMS community, ensuring that NMS faculty and other students are a consistent presence during a transitory period in their lives. They also develop strong leadership skills through volunteering and mentoring experiences with many helping younger students through side-by-side coaching at rehearsals. The program integrates participants into the vibrant, friendly and creative NMS culture with multiple weekly contacts with the school and their teachers.

We have recently strengthened our growing partnership with local non-profit New Haven Promise, a scholarship program for NHPS students from New Haven, which provides up to 100% tuition at in-state schools. City Initiative’s mentoring opportunities help them complete NHP’s community service requirement.

Students in the City Initiative program are engaged in a variety of activities, including ongoing individual lessons and ensembles, participation in studio/department/school-wide recitals and Ensemble Festival concerts at NMS and participation in the popular NMS/NHPS Recital. Most students will audition for the Greater New Haven Youth Ensembles which draw the region’s best students and perform twice a year at Yale’s historic Battell Chapel, and many will have additional performance opportunities at NMS. All will perform in their public school bands/orchestras. Some will audition for NHPS/Yale All-City Honors, the Morse Summer Academy and the CT Music Educators Association (CMEA) regional and all-state ensembles and perform in competitions, as well as have opportunities to observe works performed by professional musicians at NMS faculty concerts and New Haven Symphony Orchestra concerts.

The ongoing goals of City Initiative are:  1) to provide NHPS youth with multiple, in-depth opportunities to develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of music and demonstrate performance skills; 2) to measure their progress in their school band/instrumental programs through semi-annual evaluation surveys of music teachers; 3) to provide multiple performance and experiential learning opportunities; 4) to refine the recently-developed volunteer and mentoring component of the program to fulfill New Haven Promise scholarship requirements; and 5) to offer organized after school activities.

“This program truly benefits students like me, whose financial status may not always be able to support any path they wish to pursue. I am extremely grateful for all the opportunities I received,” said one participant. And a current participant’s mother summed up her appreciation in one simple sentence: “Thank you for causing my son to strive for his very best, and to dream, and for having such an impact on him.”


What City Initiative students say:
"The school has helped me to push for a better life - something to keep me off the streets. At NMS, students like me benefit from adults showing an interest in us."

"Neighborhood Music School has prepared me for the future . . . Everyone at NMS is really friendly and they don't judge - whether it's your race or even your height. They welcome me. Neighborhood is one of a kind!"

City Initiative is supported by funding from First Niagara (program sponsor), the National Endowment for the Arts, the State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, New Alliance Foundation, Yale-New Haven Hospital and individual donors.

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