Smiles and hugs greeted her as she walked in the hallways. As a first-year principal Rosalind Tharpe accepted the embraces; she said she always felt welcomed at General George G. Meade School.
“It’s just a big family,” Tharpe said.
For her, the connection to Meade is even bigger and more personal because her husband was a previous student. From this sense of family, Tharpe said the staff contributes to the positive and professionalism of the school.
“It’s a staff that you can tell genuinely cares about the kids. Many of the teachers have been here for a while, so they understand the community and the culture. When I walked in there’s a feeling of dedication. The kids and the family and the teachers, everybody pitches in,” Tharpe said.
Another aspect of Meade that Tharpe highlighted was the music program.
“The music program here is phenomenal. We are in partnership with Musicopia. All grades are musicians. It’s not just a select group; it’s every class. It just shows that everybody responds to music. Everybody has talent to see,” Tharpe said.
Patrick Urban leads the music program.
“He has a gift and he has a way to make music meaningful in a language that kids get.”
Fourth-grader Jhyir Champion likes to make beats and said he could be himself in music class.
“My favorite thing would be learning new music and usually being myself when I play music,” Champion said.
Classmate Mal-lik McLean has similar sentiments.
“My favorite thing about music is that you get to express yourself and learn new music that you never knew. [Music class] teaches you how to perform and face your fears,” McLean said.
“You really practice hard. Once you practice hard, put all your dedication into it and if you believe that you can do, put your mind to it. Usually when I’m having trouble doing something with music, there’s a little song I make up called ‘Hardwork and Dedication,’” Champion said.
“The enrichment engages them in a different way. Learning is not just books. It’s not just math,” Tharpe said. “You can’t have school without music or gym because you’ll bore the children. It’s all about them.”
Students are preparing for the May 31st spring concert.
Sixth-grade and English teacher, Lori Odum, leads sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students in the Young Playwrights Club. Students have the opportunity to write plays and perform them during a workshop. On June 5, professional actors will meet Meade playwrights and act out their plays.
“It’s a great program. It gives the kids a chance to express themselves. Their voices are actually heard through writing plays. They write about all kinds of things from bullyings, things going on in their families, illnesses and pressures of what’s going on, and they do it through writing. It’s just the best thing I’ve seen with this age group,” Odum said.
There are other programs at Meade. Deborah Hanson leads the Robotics Club. There is a mentally gifted program where students complete research projects. Student council gives students a voice to express their interests for school improvements. Monthly, the council meets with Tharpe. Additionally, there are the Experience Corp. tutors, a group of senior citizens who help students who have learning difficulties.
For the upcoming school year, Tharpe wants to bridge more connections with community partners and build a parents’ resource center.
To see the auditorium stage filled with xylophones, keyboards and bucket drums (tall trash cans) is a vast difference from the once barren landscape of simply desks and chairs that was once called the music room.
Seven years ago, the music department at General George G. Meade School was introduced to Musicopia — a non-profit organization that restores musical education programs in schools. Through this partnership, students were given resources, opportunities and dreams of musical talents.
Recently, the Knight Foundation, through its Knight Arts Challenge, gave Musicopia a $90,000 grant which will be used for programming at Meade.
“We built it and they came. That’s how I can describe it. The kids are very humble and appreciative. They’re now going to be well resourced as their suburban contemporaries. So the playing field has now been leveled — which is wonderful,” Meade music teacher, Patrick Urban said.
This 2006 Temple University alum has spent his six-year career teaching musical education at Meade. Along with learning about instruments, rhythms and notes, students learn discipline and respect.
“When I walked in [the school], I could tell that there was something special about the music program, but it wasn’t until I saw the management. Mr. Urban can walk away and the kids can play. It’s a seamless operation. That’s what you see in these kids. They monitor one another, so it’s amazing just to see,” Principal Rosalind Tharpe said.
“He’s a rocking teacher because he teaches us stuff that we like to play,” fourth-grader and cellist, Tony White said.
“He comes up with the coolest beats,” fourth-grader Ashanti Armstrong said.
Fourth-grader, Tatyana Owens plays violin and xylophone. She expressed her sentiments about having music class.
“My favorite thing is that you get to learn how to use different instruments. I love the violin because I always wanted to play it since the third grade. I wanted to play the violin because it’s just a calm instrument and it’s fun to play,” Owens said.
She even mentioned that she wants to continue her musical studies in high school.
“When you get to high school, you could be famous when you get older. People will want to learn from you,” Owens said.
Urban also leads an after-school drumline program. Executive director of Musicopia, Denise Kinney said the drumline program enriches students’ lives.
“This is really an alternative. They perform and compete across the tri-county area. It’s very based on discipline and commitment and hard work and all the things you’re going to need to be successful in life,” Kinney said.
“I would like to be apart of the drumline because they make awesome beats and watching them inspires me to make music,” fourth-grader Jhyir Champion said.
“I think it’s a very empowering program and empowerment is very important to a community that is very often disempowered. So that’s why this is such a transformative program,” Urban said.
From the grant, Meade will continue to develop more musical opportunities for students.
“The Musicopia program is apart of the Meade culture. I’d like to see that program extend and grow. I’d [like] us to have a choir,” Tharpe said.