Kid Pan Alley is a nonprofit organization that holds songwriting workshops for students across the United States. The organization recently visited a school in the Anacostia area of Washington. The children presented a concert with the help of songwriter and recording artist Paul Reisler. He established Kid Pan Alley in 1999. Since then he has worked with more than 35,000 students and produced more than 2,200 songs.
He says the power of music can teach children skills they might not learn in school. He believes the American educational system is focused too much on standardized tests designed to measure knowledge. But Paul Reisler says we now live in a creative economy. He says his group is trying to inspire children to be creative. At Orr Elementary School in Anacostia, 95 percent of students come from poor families. Marlon Ray is the school's dean of students. He says some of the children have difficult lives. But, he says, these kids still want to strive for greatness.
Jhonna Turner is director of programs at the school. She says the fourth- and fifth-grade students are often focused on more than school. Some have to help their families, or live in homeless shelters. A shooting took place in April directly in front of the school. No one was injured, but the incident affected the whole community. Students are often influenced by what happens around them. Still, Orr Elementary School has a positive, hopeful atmosphere. Marlon Ray says the workshop and concert made possible by Kid Pan Alley created good memories that will last for years.
For VOA Learning English, I'm Laurel Bowman.