Art helps students at a Montgomery County middle school believe in themselves
Author: Lesli Foster, James Hash, Sarah Gahagan
Published: 8:03 AM EDT September 27, 2018
Updated: 11:32 PM EDT September 27, 2018
IMPACT 4 Articles

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Reading, writing and riffing is all part of a day’s work for students at A. Mario Loiederman Middle School for the Creative and Performing Arts. At this school, every child is an artist.

EXPLORE

Art helps students at a Montgomery County middle school believe in themselves

IMPACT
Chapter 1

WHO IS LOIEDERMAN?

“Loiederman is a creative and performing arts school. There are about 950 students here. We are what’s called a whole-school magnet,” said Principal Nicole Sosik.

Students from all over Montgomery County flock to Loiederman for the kind of experience that taps into their creative potential.

When WUSA9 visited, we heard the brass section of the school band was doing their best cover of an Earth Wind and Fire familiar tune, “Let’s Groove.”

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“We have a variety of arts opportunities for kids, that range from theater to instrumental to choral,” said Principal Sosik.

And for many of them, the arts are an escape from their everyday reality. Many of the children here need additional support for food, clothing and other basic necessities.

The WUSA9 Impact team headed to Loiederman with our partners from the United Way of the National Capital Area to bring the stories of the joyful noise of the students, their families and communities to a broader audience.

MORE STORIES FROM THE IMPACT TEAM

WUSA9 Anchor Lesli Foster: “You can actually hear the sound of music in the hallways…”

Principal Sosik: “Yes, so today is one of our culminating assemblies, it’s an opportunity for kids to see their peers.”

We’re walking through the halls on a day with powered with youthful energy. Dancers practice last moves before moving in sync through their choreography. Musicians walk with stands in their hand to prepare for the next composition. Singers test their chords before leaving it all on the stage. The kids belt out a version of a familiar refrain from the wildly successful Broadway sensation, “Hamilton.”

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Lesli: “This is this sort of, Montgomery County’s School of Rock?”

Principal Sosik: “Kind of, yeah, it kind of is!” They get a pretty cool experience here that really would not happen otherwise.”

Chapter 2

ART CHANGES LIVES

The arts have changed these students and helped the to blossom.

“I moved from Rhode Island to Maryland and that was a really tough transition,” said celloist, Malachi Khalfani-Braithwaite.

“I was a really bad person,” said Carlos Portillo.

“Last year I got thrown off track,” said Gianni Palma.

Another student named Malachi talked about being shy and wondering how to fit in when first coming to Loiederman. Carlos had a series of tough years before realizing something had to change. He said he reached for “drugs, a lot.”

“I fell into this kind of depressive phase,” said Gianni.

“Eighth grade year came and I knew I had to change,” said Carlos.

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But the arts opened all of them up to their true selves. It exposed the on ramp to better days in their developing lives.

“We all face like hard times in our lives and it’s through those hard times that we find out what we really love,” said Malachi.

“Theater and the new people have met helped me like get away from all that,” said Gianni. “It helped me bring out like who I really was.”

“Loiederman has changed my life by making me much more confident,” said Malachi.

For Carlos and Gianni, the arts have been a kind of therapy that surprised even them. “It brought a personality out of me that I didn’t know existed,” said Carlos.

“Loiederman has been a great experience for me,” said Gianni. “There are a lot of kids who like don’t believe in themselves. They don’t believe, like, you know, they’re worth it. Or like they’re good at something. And the arts, they help that.”

Principal Sosik sees this kind of metamorphosis daily within these walls. “That really builds their confidence, that really they would not have that experience in another school,” she said.

Chapter 3

HOW CAN THE WUSA9 IMPACT TEAM HELP?

Lesli: “Let’s talk about what you need. I see instruments, I see performance spaces. Tell us what you need.

Principal Sosik: “One example of a need is the students having instruments on a regular basis. Just as we would want to supply materials for other classes, these are their materials -- their instruments. If they don’t have their instrument, it also prohibits them from being able to practice on a regular basis and take it home.”

How you can help make a difference

Principal Sosik wants the lockers to be filled with flutes, oboes, clarinets and trumpets. Drum sets, too. And the other entire companion band items. “I use school money just to try to purchase a few more, but I would like to see all of these lockers completely filled.”

After meeting with Principal Sosik, it was clear to our Impact team that we needed to find somebody in the community, with the ability to put more instruments into the hands of Loiederman students. And we didn’t have to look far.

“The best way to learn is you have to practice, you have to practice, you have to practice. And it can’t be once a week, it can’t be once every three days. You have to play everyday,” said Alan Levin, a member of the Levin family which owns Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center. “To hear that the kids were loving music but not being able to fully engage in the process, that’s something we wanted to be a part of."

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Alan and Adam Levin of Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center in Wheaton, Maryland stepped up to provide the very best instruments to Loiederman’s program.

Chapter 4

THE SURPRISE

Once we secured a list of instruments that would help bring even more life to the curriculum, it was time to make the special visit. We decided to drop into a meeting with teachers and administrators ahead of the start of the new school year.

“This is delivery day we are bringing joy and instruments here at Loiederman. Hi, Loiederman staffers! We’re here from WUSA9 – our Impact team – we hear you guys are ready to start the school year off and we thought we’d bring a few friends and some things to maybe help,” said Lesli. “Would that be okay?

Make that a resounding YES!

Lesli: “So we heard the sweetest sounds come out of Loiederman and you needed some instruments…”

And with that – the room erupts in cheers. “Oh wow … gorgeous instrument,” said one teacher. “I’m so pumped that there’s violins, there’s guitars, there’s drums listen to that beautiful sound.”

Principal Sosik said these generous gifts will help her students progress through the years.

Our partners with the United Way of the National Capital Area joined in the surprise. Loiederman is a United Way Community School. That designation means the school provides resources not just for education, but for entire families.

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One way that the United Way supports Loiederman is with a designated community schools representative. They were all there to celebrate the sweet sounds of a new year.

“These instruments while on their face is great for the music sake, it also provides an extra medium for these students to really express themselves in ways that is productive and positive,” said Timothy Johnson, Vice President of Community Impact at the United Way of the National Capital Area.

The United Way funds the role that Natalia Seo plays for Loiederman students and families. She works with an organization called EveryMind.

Combined, they all come together to encircle the community – to ensure that no child or family is left behind.

“And they get to play at home, practice, I mean this could change the whole like life story for a child,” said Natalia.

One teacher remarked “these kids are super lucky!”

And we know thanks to the community support, they are super grateful, too.

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