For over a decade, Freddie and Myrna Gershon have supported ArtsConnection programs at P94M—The Spectrum School, a District 75 school for children on the autism spectrum. Through their generosity we developed Spectrum Musical Theatre, a program that involves every student in the school’s eight sites with musical theatre instruction and performance opportunities. A study by a consortium of researchers at Stony Brook, Temple and George Mason Universities has found that participants in our Spectrum Musical Theater program improved their ability to read social cues, to develop perspective and to imitate, skills critical to the development of social competency.
To celebrate the Gershons and to show our appreciation for their support, ArtsConnection and P94 held an arts showcase that featured a selection of musical numbers from their 2018 productions. Highlighted were students from P94 @ PS 276, PS 188 and PS 361, performing pieces from their musicals, including Beauty and the Beast JR., Magic Treehouse: Pirates Past Noon JR. and Madagascar JR. ArtsConnection’s Executive Director Steven Tennen read a letter from Mayor Bill de Blasio recognizing Freddie and Myrna’s support and acknowledging the arts’ powerful ability to transform lives. The show reached its crescendo, however, when Ashley Duran, an 11th grader, who started the ArtsConnection residency as a very shy middle schooler, jolted the audience with an incredibly moving solo of I Know Where I’ve Been from the musical Hairspray JR.
Dr. Jeanne Bradley, P94’s principal, took the stage to express her gratitude to the Gershons. “Freddie and Myrna challenged each and every one of us to reach our potential and to see past our disabilities and to use our abilities to learn, grow and build a community. The community that you built here is your legacy. It’s the love, the dedication of the staff, the feeling that we’re a part of a community that’s growing—you’ve energized us, our teachers, and our students. We are now thriving. You’ve really taught us that art has no language, race or disability.”
Thanks to Freddie and Myrna’s support, P94 has grown from a struggling school with only 3 sites to a thriving community of 8 sites, serving children from kindergarten through high school, offering musical theatre instruction to all grades, trips to Broadway shows, behind-the-scenes theatre tours, and an unforgettable trip to Atlanta to participate in the National Junior Theater Festival and to be the subject of a feature film entitled Spectrum of Hope.
With their support of this program, Freddie and Myrna have truly changed children’s lives.