Yasmeen Khan is an associate producer covering education. You can find her stories on the air and on SchoolBook.org, WNYC’s education website.
With the help of their music teachers, students at Public School 48 Joseph R. Drake in the Bronx rapped and danced their way to a $50,000 prize for the school's music program.
The pre-K through fifth-grade school in the Hunts Point neighborhood is one of three grand prize winners in the "Glee Give a Note Campaign," which awarded money to music and arts programs at 73 schools nationwide. Nearly 500 schools entered the contest.
"It's the best thing that's ever happened to our school," said the principal, Roxanne Cardona, who made music a budget priority despite cuts this year. All students from kindergarten up at the 860-student school have music instruction at least once per week. The school also has a band and a chorus.
The contest, done in partnership with the popular TV show "Glee," required that schools make a video for their application. Diana Fox and Melissa Salguero, both music teachers at P.S. 48, studied YouTube videos that went viral. They realized people like watching kids sing and dance to pop songs. So they brainstormed a rap about the school's music program and set it to the track "Super Bass" by Nicki Minaj.
The video also features Ms. Fox and Ms. Salguero showing off broken and worn out instruments, including a piano that Ms. Fox described as "beyond repair."
She said the prize money will go toward replacing those instruments, purchasing curriculum books, and buying choral risers for concerts as well as necessities for the band, including chairs.
"Right now, all the kids have are instruments. They sit on the floor and practice," Ms. Fox said. "They don't have music stands. They don't have books."
Applications were whittled down in two parts: first through online voting by the public and then through judging by members of the National Association for Music Education.
To generate votes, the teachers used social networking sites to enlist the help of teachers, friends, their alma maters, a sorority and a naval base.
Melvin Suazo, a fifth grader and trombone player in the school band, said he was glad his school won because it really needed the money.
"It's a real big accomplishment, because I never have won anything in different schools. But in this school I feel like a winner," he said.