The following was submitted by Newport Public Schools/Newport Public Education Foundation.
Established by Peter and Melinda Gerard in 2017, the Loti Falk Gaffney Music Empowerment Fund was established to support the Pell Inspiration Program (PIP), an initiative designed to introduce Pell Elementary School students to inspired musicians through an artist-in-residence program. This year, the Gerards are expanding the trust to include the Thompson Inspiration Program (TIP), which brings the PIP tradition to students at Thompson Middle School.
The Loti Falk Gaffney Music Empowerment Fund was established as part of the Newport Public Education Foundation (NPEF), which empowers teachers, administrators and community partners to provide meaningful educational experiences for students in Newport Public Schools.
The Gerards will host Crocodile River Music at Thompson Middle School on March 9-10. Crocodile River Music’s mission is to raise awareness and inspire new ways of thinking about culture through song, dance and visual arts. This dynamic ensemble of talented and likeable individuals demonstrates the impact of African culture on the world through lively and joyful concerts and workshops, as well as speakers and other authentic programs. At the same time, the group provides opportunities for many emerging and established African artists.
Crocodile River Music is made up of a diverse group of people who have traveled the world sharing the cultures of Africa. Through the group’s Cultural Ambassador Training Program, youth from African refugee and immigrant communities who wish to pursue careers in education and the arts are offered leadership training.
“There is no greater power than the power of inspiration,” said Peter Gerard. “It allows the possible.” By expanding the program to Thompson, the goal is to allow students and artists to interact and share what this power can do and mean.
Using music as a medium, a typical engagement is a multi-day program where artists are in and around the school with their music in different settings, almost like street musicians in big cities. Freed from the constraints of the typical stage-audience relationship, this initiative aims to provide a personal and enriching experience for students. Students and staff at Thompson will find musicians throughout the school, from the hallways to the library to the cafeteria.
The residence will include a family engagement event on Thursday, March 10, with dinner seating at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. These events offer students and their families the opportunity to share this experience while enjoying a dinner prepared by Becky’s BBQ, hosted by PTO Thompson. The event is free to the Thompson community, encompassing Gerard’s dream of promoting music appreciation for all. Works by students will also be exhibited.
TIP is not a program about learning musical instruments. It’s about inspiring Thompson students and creating an impact that lasts a lifetime. At the end of May, Pell Elementary School will also celebrate the continued dedication and success of Gerard’s philanthropic efforts by hosting Crocodile River Music.
In addition to the Gerards, trustees of the Loti Falk Gaffney Music Empowerment Fund include Dennis and Roseanne Williams and Colleen Burns Jermain, Ed.D., Superintendent of Newport Public Schools.
The Gerards live in Dallas and have had a home in Newport for over 20 years. Loti Falk Gaffney was Mr Gerard’s mother and a lifelong supporter of the arts and the musical arts in particular. She was instrumental in founding the Pittsburgh Ballet and was a long-time board member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. She was also a firm believer in the importance of public schools and the importance of the arts for students.
Loti Falk Gaffney
Loti (Grunberg) Falk Gaffney was the co-founder of Pittsburgh Ballet Theater and a contributor to many other arts venues in the Pittsburgh area. Gaffney was born in Turkey in 1921 but soon moved to Italy where she was raised and educated. She studied philosophy and the arts in Milan, Paris and Switzerland. She moved to New York, where she met her second husband, Leon Falk Jr., an industrialist, financier, and philanthropist. The couple moved to Pittsburgh in 1963, where she became involved in the Pittsburgh art scene. She began working with the Pittsburgh Playhouse and the Pittsburgh Symphony and helped prevent the theater from closing in 1966 due to financial difficulties. That same year, she was approached by Nicolas Petrov with the idea of creating a professional ballet company. She provided the financial support to start the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater (PBT) and served as chair of the board. She eventually became president of the PBT, a role she would hold until 1987, when she left the company after 19 years in charge to spend time with her ailing husband, who died in 1988. Her third marriage was with attorney Frank Gaffney, who died in 2001. She died in 2015.
Newport Public Education Foundation
The Newport Public Education Foundation is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to Newport public school students. Their mission is to empower teachers, administrators, and community partners to provide meaningful educational experiences for students in Newport Public Schools.
Newport Public Schools
Public schools in Newport include Claiborne Pell Elementary School (PK-4), Frank E. Thompson Middle School (grades 5-8), and William S. Rogers High School (grades 9-12). 12th grade). The district is also home to the Newport Area Career & Technical Center (NACTC), a regional school serving Little Compton, Tiverton, Portsmouth and Middletown. NACTC offers pathways in Automotive Technology, Academy of Information Technology, Advertising and Design, Cosmetology, Residential Carpentry, and Culinary Arts. The Pathways in Technology Early College High School, in partnership with the Community College of Rhode Island, offers students the opportunity to complete their Associate’s Degree (Cyber Security) and High School Diploma.