Ambitious. Intensive. These are just a couple words to describe the Trenton Music Makers’ curriculum as they enter their 20th year of serving Trenton students. This anniversary is notable as they are expanding their programming to include the Jefferson Middle School and Trenton Central High School.

Three years ago, they initiated an after-school program which emulates an internationally renowned Venezuelan model of music pedagogy. This model has afforded Trenton youth the opportunity to learn ensemble orchestra training and art integration skills. However, honing their musical craft is just one of many skills children representing four hundred and fifty families and thirty classrooms learn during their lessons. The participants learn the value of hard work and endurance.

Students who have fallen behind in training have reversed course and refocused their energies on musical skills. The tedious practice that music training requires is often infectious, as some participants motivate their peers to excel in their efforts.

Carol Burden, the executive director of the Trenton Music Makers, is inspired by the harmonious melodies the participants create during lessons. Burden paraphrased the oft-cited quote, “The orchestra is the only group that comes together for the sole purpose of agreeing with oneself.” Under the watchful eye of Ronnie Ragen, the Early Childhood program director, the participants’ growth and development are strengthened by her evidence-based training. Ragen cited a recent study that described an integrated music curriculum as a “brain developer.”

Metrics are an important component of their entire programming, as they consistently assess the impact of their programming for students. Some of those metrics reach beyond music and that comprehensive approach is what makes their program enormously popular with Trenton students. One enthusiastic student who relocated outside of the school district moved back for the sole purpose of rejoining the Trenton Music Makers program.

As the program enters its twentieth year of existence, it is moving forward full steam ahead. Dynamic programming to celebrate their twentieth anniversary will begin at the beginning of next year, culminating in several concerts and performances throughout Trenton. Burden explained that “participants look forward to each new concert and it gives them something to look forward to.” Trenton youth and their grateful parents are looking forward to creating a pipeline of future participants for the program, especially as they prepare to unveil string orchestra instruction.