A grant funded music program expands curriculum.
Strains of Lean on Me by Bill Withers, echo down the hallway, the joyful sound of the first-year students learning to sing in unison. This exciting new program has been generously funded by Elizabeth and Phill Gross who noted, “We believe that the performance and study of music contributes to the well-rounded education at Cristo Rey Boston. It is through music that students can learn to express themselves, build community, collaborate with their peers, and take creative risks."
Since Principal Tom Ryan joined Cristo Rey Boston three years ago, he has wanted to expand the Arts program at the school. With a robust curriculum centered around drawing and painting already in place, the addition of a music program was an important goal. Principal Ryan explained, “Educating the whole child is important. On any given day after school, the hallways echo with students singing along to popular music, so it felt natural that the next step would be to offer formal music education as part of our curriculum. The Music Department offers multiple ways for students to get involved and express themselves through music. This new program will consist of a Concert Choir, Chamber Choir, and music electives.”
With the funding secured, Valesca Gongora was hired to create the program. A native of New Jersey with a music teacher father and a mother who teaches third grade, she noted that teaching is in her blood. She added, “At an early age, I saw first-hand how a teacher could impact a child’s life.” A graduate of NYU’s Music Program, her love of music is expansive. Of Cuban decent, she loves Latin music, but is also a classically trained singer- so she is excited to explore all the genres of music with her students.
Drawn to Cristo Rey Boston because of the school’s diverse population, Gongora is looking forward to incorporating culturally relevant music into the classroom. “I will be asking a lot of my students; the study of music requires a lot of discipline and focus.” she commented. Gongora continued, "Music education requires collaboration amongst the students as we are all working towards a common goal. It requires building trust with other members of the chorus and helps the students build relationships."
Gongora sees the addition of music education at Cristo Rey Boston as an opportunity to fuse academic skills with a topic that students love. Seniors are currently choosing their own winners of the MTV Music Awards based on the eight elements of music and must create a PowerPoint presentation that supports their choice based on two elements of music. First-year students are honing their research skills by creating an Artist Profile project, making posters that highlight their favorite artist.
As someone who loved all aspects of her high school and college music programs, Gongora is excited to build the program at Cristo Rey Boston. Her mandate is to teach three first-year classes and an elective for seniors, along with creating an All-School Chorus. She noted, “I am excited to create a culture of music at Cristo Rey Boston, particularly because of the community it creates within a larger school.”