Despite its award-winning band program, Marie Curie Middle School is teaching music education out of a small, old space.
At the request of MS 158 Principal Marie Nappi, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has secured $200,000 in state funding for the city Department of Education to start planning a major renovation and expansion of the existing basement-level band room.
Avella stopped in during an eighth-grade band rehearsal last week to announce the allocation of funds to the school at 46-35 Oceania St. Although the project will not likely start until next year, when those students are off to high school, they were ecstatic as they heard the news from the senator first hand.
“I am happy to support the school as well as all of you … to make sure you have the proper facilities to practice and play,” Avella told a cramped room of more than 40 kids.
The student musicians at Marie Curie have performed as a full band at the state School Music Association, or NYSSMA, for eight consecutive years. They celebrated last year when they received a seldom-given gold award with distinction in the statewide Level Three competition, and went on to achieve silver standing in the even more challenging Level Four competition.
Nappi boasted of the music program’s accomplishments, suggesting students needed a space more fit for a band with statewide honors.
The band room is currently about 18 feet by 28 feet across and has two adjacent equipment storage rooms, neither of which is sufficient for meeting the growing needs of the program, which currently has more than 200 students in grades six through eight, according to band director Jennifer Schecter.
Nappi and Schecter said they want to tear down the wall dividing the band room from a custodial storage room to extend the room to at least 40 feet across, complete with instrument storage and acoustic paneling that is more compatible with aural education.
MS 158 has one band for each grade level, but each band is split in two separate classes to rehearse, because there is not enough room for 80 students to practice at a time, Schecter said.
Schecter said she hopes the room expansion will allow her to stop splitting bands into separate classes, giving them more rehearsal time together leading up to performances and state competitions.
“This is an investment for the school, an investment for this program and it shows these kids that we do care about them and what they can accomplish here,” Schecter said.