You’re going to love the arts in Catholic schools

Written by Mary Beth Peabody

Vince Giannini believes in paybacks. A graduate of Saint Joseph elementary and high schools in Hammonton, Giannini recently donated nearly 650 copies of “Getting Music: the Basics of Rock, Jazz, R&B, Hip Hop & Country” to Catholic elementary and high schools throughout South Jersey.

“My parents had to work hard and sacrifice to send their four children to Catholic schools… I value the moral grounding I received [and] wanted to give back to the Catholic education system to honor my parents,” said Giannini of his generous contribution.

“Getting Music” combines a conversational writing style with the ‘how and why’ of music theory. Giannini co-authored the text after learning music as an adult, and he is pleased to know music is now an integral part of the curriculum.

“I hope “Getting Music’s” informal style and clear discussion of how and why music works will inspire musicians in the many schools that recently adopted the book,” he said.

Music, like all arts, has come a long way in the schools since Giannini graduated in 1976. At Giannini’s grade school alma mater, music teacher Kim Healy links music with American history.

“My eighth graders will get to “Birth of the Blues” in February, just in time for Black History Month,” she said, adding that “Getting Music” will help her students understand the theory behind original blues pieces they will write and perform. Healy is “thrilled that someone donated to the music program,” especially an alumnus of the school where she teaches.

Mary Ellen Schurtz, principal at Assumption Regional School in Galloway, has a deep appreciation for hands-on access to arts in the schools.


Students at Saint Joseph School in Hammonton

“All the video presentations, audio tapes and songs, photographs of art in museums, and DVDs of shows and musicals can never replace the spontaneity and expression of live fine arts… [which provide] a creative outlet for students not necessarily motivated for other activities,” said Schurtz.

Paul VI High School principal Sister Marianne McCann, MFP, agrees. She believes the arts help students become well-rounded and see the “fullness of what is capable for humanity.”

With enrollment of nearly 1,100 students, Paul VI offers a rich arts curriculum — from music, to mixed media arts and graphic design (including advanced placement art), to theater and dance. A walk through the halls of Paul VI is like a stroll through an art gallery, where sketches and paintings line the walls, and mixed media sculpture fills a floor to ceiling glass case.

Paul VI Arts Department chair Courtney Daniels sees the merger of arts and life every day. When she started at the school as counsellor 11 years ago, Daniels suggested adding dance as an elective. One class grew to eight, and the school now has three dance teams and a choreography program.

“They have so much to say, and they do it through dance,” said Daniels of her students. Ever the counsellor, she added, “We talk college and dance.”

Just as Giannini felt drawn to donate “Getting Music,” many Paul VI alumni dancers return as volunteers with the school’s dance program. “They stay in the field,” said Daniels. “[They are] involved and passionate about what they’re doing.”

Mary Beth Peabody is Communications and Marketing Manager, Office of Catholic Schools.

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