The Music In Me Foundation
We are very lucky to have as our guest Jane Pinczuk founder and CEO of The Music in Me Foundation, which is all about empowering youth through their special qualities using the mediums of storytelling, music, visual and performing arts.
There is little doubt this program has a huge impact and is an interesting concept to help our youth of today deal with bullying, which has become such a plague of growing up today.
Jane first off, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to come talk to us today. Can you give our readers a little bit of background to not only yourself but also how The Music in Me Foundation got started?
Absolutely! First of all, thank you for taking an interest in the work that we do. The Music in Me Foundation International is more than just a job to me. It’s my passion, my heart, my music—my life! It’s so meaningful to share The Music in Me movement with the world because it universally makes a positive difference in people’s lives. After all, how awesome is it to discover your special gifts and free yourself of self-limitation!
With over 30 years of education and experience in communications, psychology, education and the performing arts mixed with personal challenges, my journey has lead me to this amazing point to help others find their passion and succeed along their path.
The inspiration behind The Music in Me Foundation began with a bright little girl who was illiterate at 11 years old and sadly misunderstood. She could not read or write and was torturously bullied. In fact, one of the Nation’s top school systems offered to fund private schooling to help her access her education. Only there were NO private schools that could address her unique learning disabilities. Her parents were shocked when they were told that she needed to be homeschooled. Tragically, the family discovered that the little girl had a life threatening illness that forced her into the hospital for months at a time while she battled for her life. During this time period, hip hop music and pop culture remained a driving force in her journey, carrying her through her darkest hours. Unfortunately, she continued to endure heartbreaking bullying and isolation by her peers, both in person and cyberspace.
However, despite her insurmountable challenges, by the time she turned 13, she became a professional journalist, becoming the youngest writer under contract with The New York Times, writing for several teen magazines and becoming the youngest filmmaker to have her documentary screened at the Festival de Cannes in France. Although she was confided to a hospital bed, tethered by tubes and machines, her voice became endless, reaching people all over the world. At last, her superpowers were found.
Simultaneously, while the little girl was being urgently rushed to the hospital and ultimately trapped there, her seven-year-old baby brother was struggling at school and suffering too. Although he was the “healthy child,” life became a huge battle for him as well. Because of his sister’s life and death traumas, daily triage pushed him aside temporarily until he could eventually be properly tested for learning disabilities so that his educational needs could be met.
Although school remained an ordeal for him everyday, often forced to endure bullying from his peers too, he discovered his focus through the lens of a camera. By the time he turned 13, he became a professional photojournalist working for various news outlets, including PBS, local television stations, national news programs and foreign news bureaus. His award winning work has been published in The Washington Post. Finally, his superpowers were unleashed through both his still and video images.
Through perseverance, positive encouragement, motivation and inspiration, these children have overcome their obstacles–no more self-limitation! Now, the sky is the limit. How do I know? This is my story and they are my family.
I know you are very much based in the USA are there plans to expand worldwide or do you already link up with other organizations in other countries?
Funny you should ask…We’re currently searching for further financial support so that we can fully scale our program to reach a wider audience both nationally and internationally. Using the same “Music in Me” philosophy that lead my children to achieve enormous success in spite of struggling with severe special needs, we are determined to spread The Music in Me’s special brand of hope and inspiration to youth by helping them discover their unique “superpowers” to obtain their dreams and free themselves of self-limitation.
We’re also excited about teaming up with Sirius Africa in Nigeria to help youth in Africa discover their "superpowers" by building a state-of-the-art performing arts center to accommodate large crowds and serve as an educational hub of empowerment through the arts. Sirius Africa provides the artistic access to cutting-edge technology and networking opportunities, while The Music in Me Foundation supplies educational and artistic content. The Creative Media Center will contain music production, dance and acting studios, virtual offices as well as a number of multi-purpose rooms.
We’re also working with an acclaimed performing and musical artist right here in London to reach even a wider audience. Soon, we’ll be able to announce more details. Stay tuned…
Music and the performing arts are very much part of the Foundation’s process of communicating with the younger generation, why do you feel these mediums work so well?
Even before the legendary American rapper, Lawrence Krisna Parker (a.k.a. KRS-One) received the Lifetime Achievement Award for the overall pioneering of hip hop music and culture, dropped the line, “You must learn,” hip-hop was an integral part of media literacy education. Hip hop itself has taught young people for a long time; captivating their minds, moving their souls, and touching their hearts. Respected scholars such as Michael Eric Dyson and Cornell West (among others) have hinted for over two decades, “Why, in a world where hip-hop has become such a pivotal force in the lives of youth, aren’t educators using hip-hop to help youth make sense of and change their worlds?”
By using the arts to communicate with children, we’ve established a fun and effective tool to reach all children who are wired differently from each other. Whether a child learns more auditorially, visually or experientially, our multisensory approach engages them. In fact, we’ve done programs for children without any language skills at all with severe autism and were able to connect through mime, drumming and music. It was such a gratifying experience! I will never forget it. The Music in Me approach is an “everyone approach”—offering something special for all children to explore.
The Music in Me multi-media show, Unleash Your Superpowers, is a powerful and empowering blend of literacy and anti-bullying through music, art, drumming, mime, video, rap, dance, literature, storytelling, broadcasting and photography. It’s a celebration of uniqueness and individuality, aimed to inspire creative thinking about the different modalities of multi-cultural storytelling through words, images, sounds, music, improvisations and embellishments. After all, storytelling is an integral part of everything we do in life. We consider the fact that people don't all learn in the same way. Therefore, people don't tell stories using the same methods either. We all express ourselves in our own unique fashion and receive information based on our physiological make up and our own experiences in life. The Music in Me Foundation believes that every child has his or her own special gifts or superpowers. It’s just a matter of discovering them.
Launched by Ten-Time Grammy Award Winner Bobby McFerrin, our "Rap" on Reading books engage children in reading by melding quality literature, music and art. Each high interest, page-turning book comes with a free downloadable Read-Along Rap-Along Audio Narration full of music, inspiration and song. The multicultural stories captivate the imagination, while always reinforcing the message that every child has a special gift or superpower inside, ready to come out. Colorful, whimsical illustrations, as well as relatable characters, fun tales and toe tapping raps entertain both readers and nonreaders. "Rap" on Reading helps children to discover their passion, build on their strengths and find their voice through an innovative and holistic approach to education that reaches all students through the arts.
Establishing a sense of rhythm, as found in rap music, can be used to increase a student's awareness of rhyming patterns and alliteration in other areas of reading and writing. Studies have shown that through music, memory skills can be improved, and aural discrimination increased. Rap can focus the mind on the sounds being perceived and promote learning through an interactive process. It is important in teaching early childhood students to be conscious of auditory and discrimination skills. Music and songs help increase these listening skills in a fun, relaxed manner. Listening skills are key in singing, language and expressive movement, and later reading and writing according to one study by Maryanne Wolff. In fact, I still sing the ABCs to get through the whole alphabet (with a chuckle).
I was talking with a friend the other day about bullying and how it has become a problematic factor in life, remembering when we are at school, how if you were being bullied it somehow stopped once you got home and closed that door to the outside world it was not ideal but, at least there was escape, today there seems to be no getting away from it with the internet, mobile phones and even the TV playing. What are your thoughts on these technologies and how much do you feel they have contributed to bullying?
Technology is an amazing tool, opening up the world to all of us and enhancing our lives in many ways. However, social media, cell phones and other technologies have made bullying nearly impossible to escape because they’ve broken down the barriers of face-to-face communication and have made it easy for bullies to hide! For example, I know of a teenager who was even bullied in her hospital bed through facebook, while she was fighting for her life! It was so cruel and heart breaking, lacking all humanity. This is why The Music in Me Foundation teaches that the power of social consciousness and positive leadership is more beneficial on all levels. It’s amazing how you can greatly impact someone’s life with just a couple of key stokes in a positive manner, rather than being destructive. Through music and the arts we communicate how unity, appreciation and acceptance only make us stronger and better, both as a whole and individually.
Following on from the above question, what are your thoughts on Social Media site’s and how they are very much at the forefront of bullying today?
Because people only post the high points of their lives or how they want to be perceived, it could appear to an awkward teenager that the world is having a party without inviting them. Beyond spreading rumours, name-calling or posting embarrassing pictures, the internet could be very excluding. For instance, it’s can be a challenge for so many children and teenagers trying to find the right group or “clique” where they feel comfortable and fit in. Social media can intensify these feelings of not “fitting in” and isolation. Purposeful exclusion is a form of bullying. Nobody wants to feel unwanted or invisible. Bullying comes in three main types: physical, verbal and emotional. All three at times are often mixed and matched. Although social media is at the forefront of bullying, we can teach our children proper etiquette to put an end to this unacceptable behaviour.
What do you feel the future holds for The Music in Me Foundation any major plans in the pipeline?
We just signed an agreement with Giant Foods and Ahold USA who will be carrying our "Rap" in Reading Book Series in 170 of their stores across the country. Together, we will are launching different campaigns involving empowerment, anti-bullying and literacy events with a kick-off in 60 of their Baltimore stores. Since Giant Foods is the official sponsor of the Baltimore Ravens Baseball Team, we are also reaching out to the community through special events with the Ravens as well.
Currently in development by our team of curriculum & research experts, as well as an interactivist from Sesame Street is an innovative, cutting edge approach to education–The Music in Me Interactive Digital Platform. It will supply teachers, counselors, administrators and parents with a meaningful measurement tool and data collection system to help students discover strengths. The objectives are to inspire, motivate, educate, empower, entertain and encourage students to stop self-limitation so that they can become successful life long learners.
Additionally, CBS Radio's #1 hip hop station in the United States, WPGC 95.5 FM is our main sponsor, providing valuable prime airtime promotions to support our programs, services, show and products. Between broadcast, social media and our presence in the community, we are reaching hundreds of thousands of people per week.
Ultimately, our goal is to expand nationally and globally to help as many youth as possible.
Before we finish what help or advice can you give to anyone who may be facing bulling of any sort?
Know, it’s NOT your fault, which more easily said than done because it hurts so deeply whether it’s physical or emotional. However, it’s not about you. It’s more of a reflection on the bully—their insecurities, quest for power, family issues, alcohol or substance abuse, mental illness, insensitivities, ignorance or simply stated, their meanness!
Secondly, don’t be silent. Please find support from your family, school, therapist, friend, counsellor, authority figure or anybody that makes you feel safe.
Finally, contact www.themusicinme.org to get further information and resources. Our foundation helps children discover their unique special gifts (or “superpowers”) so they can build on their strengths, self-esteem and confidence—stopping self-limitation.
Keep preserving and trying different activities or interests until you find something you really enjoy doing and keep doing it. Don’t be afraid to fail because it is the key ingredient to success as my dad used to tell me. Life’s challenges help us to discover our superpowers and greatness!
Now we always like to ask our guest one a few fun questions so I hope you don’t mind
What’s your Favourite movie?
Singing in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly, is my all time favourite movie! It’s such a feel good movie and has withstood the test of time, making it a timeless classic.
Are you prone to the singing bug while taking a shower or bath?
Yes, I sing in the shower like a bug (laughter).
If you got stuck in a haunted house and could choose one person to be with you, who
would it be and why?
I’d want to be with my dad. He was fearless and took on challenges head on with a positive outlook. He was a gentle lion.
Where in the world would you most like to visit?
I’d like to visit Israel and share The Music in Me philosophy to be used as a part of conflict resolution, building unity and acceptance between Jews and Arabs.
If you could be a super hero who would it be and why?
Wow! This is a perfect question because it is so “The Music in Me-ish!” As I mentioned earlier, we believe that every child has their own special “music” inside of them or what we call “superpowers.” It is our mission to help youth discover their own unique superpower to share with the world. So in essence, we all have the potential to be superheroes in our own right. I believe that a being a superhero is actually being a friend and reaching out to someone in need. Being a friend makes ALL the difference in the quality of someone’s life. In fact, being a friend can and does save lives. If I could be a superhero, I would be SUPER FRIEND with the power of supplying friends to everyone in need of love, acceptance, kindness, happiness and compassion! I believe Abraham Lincoln had it right when he said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
Well that’s just about it, all that remains is to say thank you Jane for coming to chat with us on such a worthy cause, anyone whishing for more information can check out the details below
Please reach out to us because we always reach back!
Facebook: The Music in Me Foundation International
Linkedin: Jane Pinczuk