Continuing the tradition started last year, in celebration of Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM), Melinda and Peter Gerard announce the Loti Falk Gaffney Pell Elementary School Music Empowerment Trust, also known as the Pell Inspiration Program (PIP), a program to introduce the students of Pell Elementary School to inspired musicians through an artists-in-residence program, will host Crocodile River Music and the Common Fence Music Connecting the Beats program at the Claiborne Pell Elementary School March 21 & 22nd, 2018. The Trust was formed under the Newport Public Education Foundation (NPEF), which provides grants supporting unique classroom experiences in Newport’s Public Schools.

Crocodile River Music’s mission is to spread awareness and inspire new ways of cultural thinking through song, dance, and visual art. This dynamic ensemble of talented and personable individuals demonstrates them impact of African culture on the world through lively and joyous concerts and workshops, as well as lecturers and other authentic programming.  At the same time the group provides opportunities for many emerging, as well as, established Aftrican Artists.

Crocodile River Music is composed of a diverse group of people who have traveled to many countries in the world sharing the cultures of Africa. Through the groups Cultural Ambassador Training Program, youth in African refugee and immigrant communities interested in pursing careers in education and the arts are offered leadership training.

“There is no greater power than the power of inspiration. It enables the possible.” Peter Gerard  stated that “PIP’s goal is enable the Pell student to see first hand, by bringing inspired artists to the Pell community in a way that allows the students and the artists to interact and share what this power can do and mean.”

Using music as the medium, the typical engagement will be a multi-day program where the artists are in and around the school with their music in different settings, almost like street musicians in the great cities. By not being constrained by the typical stage audience relationship, the goal and hope for this initiative is to make this experience truly personal and rewarding for the students.

In addition, each residency will include a parent engagement event, providing an opportunity for students and their parents to share this experience together. Our dream is to promote the appreciation of this music for everyone.

Pell PIP is not a program about learning musical instruments. It is about our Pell Elementary students being inspired and creating an impact that lasts a lifetime.

The first Pell Inspiration Program (PIP) took place last year, when The Bohemian Quartet  served as the first Artists-in-Residence group.  Board of Trustees for the Loti Falk Gaffney Pell Elementary School Music Empowerment Trust includes Melinda and Peter Gerard, founders of the program; Dennis and Roseanne Williams, Mr. Williams is Chairman of the Palm Beach Opera and a member of the Board of the Newport Music Festival; and Colleen Burns Jermain, Superintendent of the Newport Public Schools.

Melinda and Peter Gerard live in Dallas, Texas and have had a home in Newport for almost 20 years. Loti Falk Gaffney was Mr. Gerard’s mother and a life-long supporter of the arts and the musical arts in particular. She was instrumental in the founding of the Pittsburgh Ballet and a long-time board member of the Pittsburgh Symphony. She was also a strong believer in the importance of the Public School System and the importance of the arts for students. Mrs. Gaffney passed away in October 2015.