Since they’ve been introduced to our culture , the performing arts have long been viewed as something reserved soley for affluent high society. It stands to reason, then, why individuals who have not had exposure from a young age would not acquire the appreciation nor interest: The arts seem “too bourgeois” or “out of reach.”
Thankfully, Joseph W. Polisi, President of the prestigious Julliard School recognized that this was a problem. In 1991, after the budget for music education was slashed in New York City public schools, Polisi implemented the Music Advancement Program (MAP). 40 students between the ages of 8 to 14 were chosen from underserved communities and each Saturday, they would work one on one with an instructor, learning about musicianship and their musical instrument. The program not only nurtured an awareness and knowledge for classical music, but it taught self-respect and responsibility.
Twenty three years later, the program continues to thrive and filmmaker Ben Niles has captured the experience of a small group of these students in his documentary Some Kind of Spark which recently premiered at the Fifth Annual DOC NYC competition. NIles should be commended for bringing awareness to this phenomenal program and he stated that he “wanted to try and make my own impact through this film.” On most accounts, he has succeeded. With excellent segments of music lessons, Niles shows the dedication and endless support these teachers have showered upon their students. The bond they establish over this three year period is personal and powerful. What these gifted teachers give to these aspiring young musicians is life-altering and powerful. Yet Niles could do more to elaborate on the personal background and lives of these students. The home lives and personal struggles tend to be glossed over. Were there a more rounded view, the film would leave an even greater impact. Still, Niles has shed light on this impressive program and proves that there is not one socioeconomic rule over the arts. It is, and should be for anyone–and exposure to them should start at an early age, so that they develop a life long appreciation.
For more information about the film and to follow upcoming showtimes, visit: http://www.somekindofspark.com. For more information about the film festival, running through November 20, visit http://www.docnyc.net