What Can We Learn from the Trenton Children's Chorus' Impressive Five-Grant Windfall?

A lot of us fondly remember the good old days of elementary school music class when we'd sit in a room and sing loudly, happily, and consistently out of key. Interestingly enough, the only songs we actually remember singing were of the patriotic variety—"You're a Grand Old Flag" and "The Caissons Go Rolling Along" leap most immediately to mind. Yes, that's a little weird.

But as weird as that is, what's even weirder — and even worse, tragic — is the likelihood that many American children are being denied the simple joy of choral instruction. Which is why news out of Trenton, New Jersey is so heartening.

The Trenton Children's Chorus received $50,000 in total from six different entities:

  • A $25,000 operating grant from the Princeton Area Community Foundation
  • $10,000 from the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey
  • $4,500 from the David Mathey Foundation
  • $4,500 from the Mary G. Roebling Foundation
  • A $1,000 Local Arts Program grant from the Mercer County Cultural and Heritage Commission, and
  • A $5,000 grant for the purchase of electronic keyboards from the James Kerney Foundation

These grants are vital, because despite an improving economy, many state governments have yet to bring arts and music education funding back to pre-Great Recession levels. For example, a quick Google search revealed that the Los Angeles Unified School District, one of the nation's largest, just announced its plans to reduce art classes, with choral instruction taking the biggest hit.

If that isn't bad enough, this inaction also creates a "new normal" in which state and local governments feel perfectly comfortable handing off arts funding to private foundations. Recent news out of Trenton certainly adds credence to this trend.

Perhaps most importantly, the Trenton Children's Chorus windfall also underscores the importance of funding diversification. Investors are told to diversify their portfolios, and the same logic applies to nonprofit organizations. Don't put all your funding eggs in one basket.

It's an intuitive lesson, but sadly, some nonprofit organizations either fail to heed this wisdom or, most likely, simply have no choice in the matter. They take what they can get, even if it poses long-term risks. For further proof, look about 30 miles southwest, where the Penn Foundation stunned Philadelphia dance companies by announcing devastating funding cuts, essentially crippling the entire city's dance community.

The Trenton Children's Chorus provides an encouraging counterpoint while proving that choral instruction is more than just singing. To quote Patricia Thel, Executive Artistic Director of the Trenton Children’s Chorus, the organization empowers "the social, emotional and academic lives of children through artistry in music."