Penn collecting instruments for Lea music program

Lea Student

Adam Weaver

A student plays a violin in the auditorium of Henry C. Lea Elementary School.

Molly McGlone, assistant dean for advising at Penn, teaches courses in music and urban studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, including a residential program in Fisher Hassenfeld College House called “Music and Social Change.” McGlone is also a member of the West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools, and for the past year and a half, she has been bringing these worlds together to establish music programs for students at West Philadelphia’s Henry C. Lea Elementary School.     

McGlone’s latest effort, which launched this week, is a collaboration between her students, the Penn Band, and the Netter Center for Community Partnerships to establish an after-school music program for Lea’s 2nd through 4th grade students.

“I took this project on because I am the person I am today because I had music education in my public school,” McGlone says.

Sparked by an idea from Kushol Gupta, assistant director of the Penn Band, the University collaborators are holding an instrument drive for the Lea music program. Donation drop-off locations are at the Netter Center, Claudia Cohen Hall, the Platt Student Performing Arts House, and Lea Elementary. The drive organizers will make use of any musical items donated. McGlone says they will also accept monetary donations, which will be used to purchase accessories like strings and music stands.

Lea School

Adam Weaver

Henry C. Lea Elementary School at 4700 Locust St. The school was named after a Philadelphia historian, civic reformer, and political activist.

Already the organizers have begun trading instruments with Musicopia, an independent Philadelphia music program that helps provide underserved students in the region with musical instruments and music instruction. “If they have a quarter-sized violin and we need one, and we have a clarinet we can’t use, we’ll swap them,” says McGlone. “They’ve already given us a cello and we’ve given them some drums.”

With the added support for its music programs, Lea successfully requested funding from the School District of Philadelphia for the school’s first full-time music teacher. Penn students will be working to supplement this instruction through the Lea Community School program run by the Netter Center’s Sterling Baltimore. 

“We’ve got a whole rotating schedule of students who will be helping with small classes on musicianship, choir, and violin,” McGlone says. “It takes a village.”

Originally published on September 27, 2012