Paterson Music Project
As is the case with many non-profit organizations, the Paterson Music Project (PMP), a program of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts, relies on a handful of discrete fundraising events annually as part of a multi-channel fundraising approach to help sustain and advance its mission. Ride for PMP, in tandem with the Garden State Fondo (formerly Gran Fondo NJ), is one such event. Rated as one of the top three Gran Fondos in the USA for 4 years in a row by Gran Fondo Guide, the race is historically held on the first Sunday after Labor Day. In the months leading up to the Gran Fondo event, PMP recruits cycling enthusiasts to join Team PMP, which collectively garners support for the after-school music program through its race participation.
Said Director of Development Elizabeth Piercey, “This year, the official Garden State Fondo event was cancelled due to COVID-19, but we decided to move ahead with the fundraising campaign anyway. We selected RunSignup, an emerging leader among technology providers for races, as our fundraising platform. We were impressed with its ease of use, robust peer-to-peer fundraising focus, and the ability to create ‘challenges’ in addition to traditional events.”
The pivot to the first-ever, in-house cycling event was nothing short of daunting. How would the organization’s community respond to a virtual race? Once the decision was made to proceed with Ride for PMP, much of the behind-the-scenes logistics fell on the shoulders of Development and Marketing Associate Brenda Kohn.
“The pandemic required us to re-evaluate all of our fundraising campaigns for the coming year and make some tough decisions about cancellations and embracing new practices,” said Kohn. “It became clear that our success would be directly impacted by our ability to innovate and use more flexible technology. After identifying some possible race platforms, we met virtually for online demos and attended literally hours of webinars to learn exciting new ways to fundraise, and how to use products that support those concepts.”
It quickly became apparent that RunSignup’s challenge feature set it apart from competing platforms.
Said Kohn, “A challenge is a fundraising campaign that takes place over a period of time and has at least one specific goal. After some deliberation, we agreed that our challenge was best designed as a month-long effort of riding, walking, running, and even swimming to accumulate miles towards a mileage goal—in addition to collecting donations towards a monetary goal. RunSignup allowed us to flip the focus from asking for money to encouraging people to help meet our goal of 5,000 miles.”
As it turns out, miles became the primary focus of the challenge, and fundraising was secondary. An unprecedented number of participants joined the challenge within the first week of open registration and began logging miles. Participants from 11 states told their friends about the mileage challenge, creating a grassroots movement across the country not witnessed before with this particular fundraising event.
“After initially setting a modest mileage goal of 1,000 miles, met after only one week, we increased the goal to 5,000 miles,” said Kohn. “By the end of the month-long challenge on September 30, we surpassed our goal with a total of nearly 7,000 miles!”
Recent research suggests that the coronavirus has disrupted our exercise habits, with most of us being less active during the pandemic lockdown and ensuing social distancing, according to one study out of the United Kingdom. There is no doubt that it has altered where, when, and how we exercise. An increased interest in the part exercise plays in our lives was seen in the first weeks of global pandemic-related lockdowns by a spike in Google searches related to the word “exercise,” which remained elevated for months.
Ride for PMP coincided with a lifting of lockdown restrictions, yet with containment measures still firmly in place. With many unable to go to a gym or attend their usual in-person exercise classes, the PMP fundraising event offered an impetus to get fit outdoors, on participants’ own time and in their own way, while helping to sustain a vital performing arts program in Paterson, NJ. And with pandemic travel restrictions and precautions still prevailing, exercise for many became a way to experience a mini get-away, right in their own town.
“Happily, most of our Ride for PMP participants did send the RunSignup link for their personal donation page to their contacts, ensuring a fundraising success that out-performed our previous Garden State Fondo campaigns,” reported Kohn. “We raised a total of $20,000, a 368% increase over the previous three years.”
Continued Kohn, “As a participant in the challenge myself, I found it very easy to personalize my fundraising page with my own story, pictures, and video. I imported my contacts and customized an email template asking for the support of friends and family. I sent that email shortly before the challenge started, and then posted updates about my progress towards my goals on my Facebook page. Pretty simple really, but amazingly effective.”
As Kohn explains, her Ride for PMP story was a little different than most. Living with a chronic mobility disability caused by multiple sclerosis meant that instead of focusing on logging as many miles as possible during September, she chose to focus on improving her performance throughout the month.
“This ‘spin’ on the virtual challenge gave me the chance to keep my supporters, friends, and family updated on my progress, and also gave them a reason to interact and encourage me by posting replies to my social media updates as well as making donations,” said Kohn. “I’ll never forget the day that I was able to walk over one mile for the first time in years! After sharing this milestone on Facebook, a kindhearted donor recognized my efforts by making a generous donation towards my fundraising goal of $1,000. I truly believe that this recognition inspired me to continue logging miles, as well as encouraged my supporters to continue making donations. I ended the month surpassing my 20-mile goal, and raising $1,481!”
As we chip away at unraveling how to navigate the landscape around us safely, focusing on how many steps we take or miles we cycle can help many come to terms with the current reality. Team PMP discovered this as a serendipitous outcome of hosting a virtual race, and shifting the focus to what we can do and where we can go—and not the obstacles in the road.
The Paterson Music Project empowers children to achieve their full potential through the joyful pursuit of musical excellence. Inspired by the global El Sistema movement, the Paterson Music Project uses music education as a vehicle for social change.
The Santa Fe Opera brings the story of American voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer to Wharton Arts on Friday, October 30 at 7:00 p.m.
An Interview with Artistic Director & Principal Conductor Helen H. Cha-Pyo
hope noun (hoʊp): to want something to happen or to be true, and usually have a good reason to think that it might*
*From the Cambridge Dictionary
As the New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS), a program of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts, prepares for its first live concert in seven months this Sunday at New Providence’s Centennial Park, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Helen H. Cha-Pyo gives some insights as to how NJYS has adapted throughout the pandemic and her vision for the 2020-21 season.
Q: How has the pandemic affected the New Jersey Youth Symphony?
A: Performing arts education institutions such as NJYS have faced unique challenges. As an ensemble-based organization, the inability to rehearse and perform concerts in-person is detrimental to the core mission of our program. When the pandemic hit, our orchestra rehearsals and concerts came to a screeching halt. On March 11, 2020, we had to shut down our physical building; however, within the following two weeks, we created virtual rehearsal rooms and instantaneously shifted to online programming. Although it is impossible to replicate the experience of playing together as a 100-piece orchestra remotely, we have found new avenues to continue making music through virtual performances, master classes, webinars, small ensemble rehearsals, and online courses. These have and will continue to expand the horizons of our young musicians beyond what we could have imagined pre-pandemic.
Q: What is your vision for the 2020-21 season?
A: The 2020-21 season will focus on messages of hope shared by our students with communities near and far. We see the young musicians of Wharton Arts as messengers of hope who will share the gift of music through our #StayHomeandPlay virtual concert performance initiative and bring comfort and joy to so many people who are in isolation, especially elderly populations residing in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Throughout this pandemic, our students are experiencing music as a source of inspiration and comfort, even when they are stuck at home. We believe music takes on a special meaning amid difficult moments, and we are taking the opportunity to spread hope in otherwise uncertain times. As Maya Angelou said, “The nice thing about hope is that you can give it to someone else who needs it even more than you do, and you will find that you have not given yours away at all.”
Another focus this season will be increasing the presence of underrepresented composers in our repertoire choices by performing more works written by black, Latinx and women composers, as well as learning from world class artists through the Monday Master Class Series and the Friday Webinars at Wharton Arts.
Q: How did you choose the ensembles for the upcoming Outdoor Community Concert?
A: Winds, brass, and percussion instruments are more conducive to outdoor performances. As the musicians of Youth Symphony, Youth Orchestra, Clarinet Quartet, and Percussion Quartet are some of our most advanced students, they can prepare for concerts in a short amount of time. We have been able to hold outdoor rehearsals in preparation for the October 25 concert despite some low temperatures in the early evenings.
Q: Tell us a bit more about how the young musicians have been rehearsing for the concert.
A: In order to maintain the safety of our student musicians and staff as our highest priority, we are currently unable to rehearse as full orchestras and large ensembles indoors. However, our most advanced students have rehearsed in small ensembles at our temporary outdoor rehearsal tent in the Performing Arts School parking lot for the past four weeks. Everyone is fully masked—even our wind and brass players—with specialized PPE such as bell covers and instrument bags to minimize aerosolization. Our rehearsals are under one hour with a short break for cleaning and disinfecting. For those students who have chosen to engage remotely, they have the option to join the rehearsal via Zoom.
Q: How did you choose the repertoire for the October 25 concert?
A: With this concert being our first public performance since last January, I was tremendously excited to program it. Due to the reduced rehearsal hours and the limitations of online rehearsals, it was tricky to choose repertoire that was both challenging and meaningful to our highly talented young musicians. Download the digital concert program.
Recognizing many of the silver linings during this time of social distancing, I see this as a rare opportunity for us to explore repertoire for small ensembles that we cannot normally program when we perform as a large symphony orchestra. As a celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States, I have programmed works by American women composers such as Joan Tower and Valerie Coleman.
Q: What should the audience listen for on Sunday?
A: The concert will open and close with a pair of majestic fanfares. Aside from the two most well-known fanfares, Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland and Fanfare La Peri by Dukas, I am most excited to conduct Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 1 & No. 2, written by a prolific living American composer, Joan Tower. Additionally, you will hear a wide range of pieces written by diverse composers including Gershwin, Charlie Parker, Rossini, Holst and others performed by Youth Symphony Winds, Clarinet Quartet, Percussion Quartet and our award-winning Charles Mingus Jazz Combo.