Fearless Parent brings the music

Fearless Parent brings the music
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

This schoolhouse got rocked.

Students and teachers at PS 81 in Bedford-Stuyvesant got up and danced on March 12 during a performance by local musician Suzi Shelton — Ms. Suzi to most of her petite fans. The show was part of an event organized by the arts group InspireCorps whose name, judging by the student response, the youngsters took to heart.

“It was great for the kids to jump around,” said Deborah Watts, a kindergarten teacher at the school who got into the swing of things. “And me too.”

The group put on the concert for kindergartners and first- and second-graders at the school on DeKalb Avenue between Lewis and Stuyvesant avenues. It also brought in up-and-coming hip hop artist Donnovan Blocker, who goes by the stage name Dyme-A-Duzin, to the school to speak with older students about his budding career and the importance of writing.

InspireCorps is an organization founded last year by Park Slope mom and Brooklyn Paper parenting columnist Stephanie Thompson with the mission of bringing artists, writers, and musicians to low-income schools to get students interested in the arts.

Thompson got the idea for the organization when she noticed while volunteering with a literacy program that schools in poor areas do not get the type of arts programming her sons’ school in Park Slope gets. She wanted to change that.

“Offering kids access and engagement to arts is crucial,” she said.

InspireCorps pays local artists to tell students about their crafts and to get kids interested in creative pursuits.

“The artists need to make money,” Thompson said. “And it’s a great win-win to have the artists at the schools.”

Ms. Suzi, who also lives in Park Slope, spoke to the children about her love of music.

“Songwriting is something that everyone can do,” she told her tiny audience. “A song is just a poem put into a melody.”

The teachers were impressed with the production.

“The kids really liked how interactive it was,” said Watts.

Blocker, who is 21 and about to release an album on Atlantic Records, talked to the older kids about how he got started writing songs in an East Flatbush public school much like theirs. He said a teacher told him to keep a journal and it became a good way for him express the things he saw in everyday life.

“It’s really important that kids are able to express their life experiences in a productive way,” Thompson said.

The musician’s fee for this Ms. Suzi performance was provided by the parents of Silvia Schohn, a student at Thompson’s kids’ school PS 107 who wanted other youngsters to hear the songstress that would not have otherwise had the chance.

“I want a school that doesn’t normally get Ms. Suzi to get Ms. Suzi,” Schohn said.

InspireCorps is hosting a fund-raising gala on May 2 that will feature musical performances by Blocker and others.

“A Night to Inspire” benefit at Roulette Theater (509 Atlantic Ave. between Third Ave. and Nevins Street, www.inspirecorps.org). May 2 at 7 pm. $90 to $100.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Sing’s the thing: Singer-songwriter Ms. Suzi performed with guitarist Greg Mayo, at PS 81 in Bedford-Stuyvesant on March 12.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini