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Vol. LXV, No. 47
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
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“The Space Was Singing for a Mural”: Student Art Graces PCS Music Room

Ellen Gilbert

“Whenever kids go out of their way to make beauty, it is something,” observed Princeton Charter School (PCS) Music Director Jeanne Nahan.

In this instance, she was referring to a student-created mural in the new campus center’s music room. “There is a wall above where I stand and teach; I envisioned a mural to across the top. The space was singing for a mural.”

An email about the project sent to some PCS alumni elicited a response from Princeton High School senior Chrislyn Choo. After brainstorming during the summer of 2010, Ms. Nahan and Ms. Choo agreed upon the finished design and, with some help from Ms. Choo’s mother and brother, spent several days tracing.

“I loved tracing with the overhead projector. When the work was done I felt like an artist; I wish I could draw!” Ms. Nahan said wistfully.

As a busy high school senior Ms. Choo was, not surprisingly, too busy to paint that year, so the following summer (2011) Ms. Nahan “blocked out some days and painted away. I invited two eighth graders that I knew had the artistic talent in them to help paint. The first day of painting was the day after the end of school. Can you imagine that? These girls came during the teacher clean-up work days to paint for hours and hours. And I fed them and fed them.”

Summer activities got in the way and, for a while, the room “stayed as we left it in June: filled with paint and ladders and drop cloths.” Ms. Choo came to the rescue, finishing the mural just before Labor Day this year. “She spent eight hours a day for several days working on detail upon detail, as if this was the most important task,” Ms. Nahan said. “It is beautiful,” she added. “After teaching in the Charter room for four years, traveling from class to class, and using the room behind the offices for another four years, this is heaven. I feel like I am not in Kansas anymore.”

The mural portrays instruments that represent the school’s orchestra; children singing; the PCS Hawk (the school’s mascot); a globe; drama; and phrases from the three songs that capture a child’s passage through music at PCS: “Golden Rule,” sung in Kindergarten; “On this Night,” sung at the end of every school concert; and “Farewell to Charter,” a short, three-part a cappella piece arranged by Ms. Nahan with words by PCS teacher Shawna Valentine, that is sung every year at graduation.

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