Two years ago, I came across a sweet cover of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” sung by Staten Island, NY’s PS 22. For a while, I followed them on Twitter, (they introduced me to Lady Gaga!) but the novelty wore off. I felt that especially with their growing numbers and fame, I could visit, but I didn’t need to follow. We parted ways, PS 22 and I.
They did pop on my radar sporadically over the years, and as an avid music lover myself, I can’t say that I was always gracious. The harmonies began to feel too familiar, the solos not so riveting, and the physical movements of emotion that had so charmed me at first began to irk me since their rhythm was sometimes off. So, I do understand when people are not swept away by them. But honestly, Andy Cohen’s tirade about PS22’s recent Oscars performance was super uncalled-for. Who the heck says such things about children? My issue has nothing to do with being “politically correct” or anything like that; just, honestly, who does that (cut down kids on TV)? Furthermore, when I watched the actual clip, the kids were not bad at all. This time, the familiar harmonies and their rhythmic movements (along with the magic of cinema) gave me the shivers again! Not necessarily because they were fantastic, but because music does that – the swells, the blends, the words, the associations – ah! I agree there is a time and place for everything, but I don’t think this presentation was out of place at all. The way Andy Cohen described it, you would think that it was some sort of reverse-slumming or something condescending like that.
Anyway, Gregg Breinberg, the teacher behind all this, definitely has something going on here, and it’s gold. I always love seeing teachers being innovative and effective in ways that do not require the latest innovations from technology or constant entertainment. Also, to see this man labor with such faithfulness and enthusiasm year after year is amazing. Not only does he continue steadily in his job, but he expands the experience for his students, draws in other members of the community, and opens doors for opportunities that most students (whether over- or underprivileged) may not see!
Lastly, I love how Gregg Breinberg takes an elective and incorporates it in a way that not only supplements his other lessons but actively bolsters them. Music is not simply a high art, but it’s a medium that channels emotion and stimulates thought in so many ways. Few art mediums can cause emotions and bodily reactions (chills, tears, disgust, anger, peace) this easily. And it is sad that because schools are cutting the arts and music programs and because not all teachers have the ability (or desire) to supply such experiences, that students don’t get this. Yet in PS 22, thanks to Gregg Breinberg and his efforts, generations of students benefit! Despite the “immeasurability” of his work, the effects are definitely visible.
To read more about Gregg Breinberg and PS 22 Chorus, check out this interview on Open Education!