The 5PM Porch Music Program seeks to provide a high quality, free music education to middle school and high school youth from Title I schools in the Flatbush and Kensington neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Through intensive mentorship with local musicians, original composition workshops, large group ensemble rehearsals and performances in interactive multi-generational community concerts, youth participants develop their skills as creative artists and explore the role of music in community building.
Through their participation, youth learn to process challenging life experiences through creative musical expression, build meaningful relationships with mentors and peers, become empowered members of their communities and to graduate high school with confidence, resilience and joy.
The 5PM Porch Youth Program takes place at several locations in the Kensington and Flatbush neighborhoods. The weekly lessons and writing sessions typically take place on the porches of neighbors on the blocks surrounding the Newkirk Plaza train station.
It was two weeks into the complete shutdown of New York City because of the COVID-19 pandemic and veteran jazz musician and educator Roy Nathanson had an idea. “I was just so shaken by the enormity of the situation, the kind of web of fear,” he remembered. “My tours were all canceled, people I knew were getting sick, the streets were so eerie. I heard about the Italians singing out on their balconies in Italy and I just wanted to play something beautiful for the neighborhood and myself.” He went out with his alto saxophone onto his second floor balcony in Ditmas Park and played one song: Amazing Grace. “I thought, play one song exactly at 5 pm and walk back inside.”
The next day his downstairs neighbor, bassist Lloyd Miller, set up his bass among the flowers in the garden below and joined him. The day after that, drummer Eric Alabaster and percussionist Saleem Mohamed both from around the corner joined in. One by one, other musicians, Catalonian pianist Albert Marquès from Flatbush, on the melodica, and guitarist Eddie Bourjolly, toting his electric guitar and battery powered amp from Canarsie. Roy’s son Gabe, on trumpet, joined his father on the balcony and his friend, Gabe Garcia, who grew up in the neighborhood brought his sax. Aidan Scrimgeour, a pianist, brought both his accordion and melodica after hearing the music down the street. Orlando McPherson toted his flute. Joel Siegel, a neighbor from three streets over, brought his guitar. A fiddle player, banjo player and others stopped by. Some of Albert’s students from the middle school he teaches at came to play.
Providing High Quality & Free Music Education for Youth in Flatbush and Kensington
Our weekly rehearsals take place in the backyard of Jalsa Grill & Gravy, an Indian restaurant located on the border of Flatbush and Kensington. Our end of the year concerts will take place in public outdoor spaces in the neighborhood. We present concerts on Newkirk Plaza, Avenue C Plaza, Newkirk Avenue Open Streets, Cortelyou Road Open Streets and on neighborhood porches. All our venues are on public streets, so they are entirely accessible to persons with disabilities.
Our program is completely free to all participants and we encourage parent involvement in order to ensure the program runs smoothly and has a beneficial impact on participating families. Like the mutual aid society model, all are asked to contribute based on their capacity.
Over time, we have formed strong partnerships with community organizations active in social justice and youth development. We have worked with the Flatbush Development Corporation (FDC) to recruit students and co-produce several concerts. Our partnership with Arts and Democracy has deepened our roots in the Kensington community, and over the last few years we have collaborated on several concerts, which were celebrations of immigrant culture and public art.
We are also supported by NYC Connect, Lily Auchincloss Foundation, NYC Dept of Cultural Affairs, Brooklyn Arts Council, and the Tuch Foundation, ….
And numerous generous individual donors that make this program possible.