BALTIMORE, md. — Ronald McFadden is a Baltimore County Public School Choral Director. Formally, he worked in Baltimore City where he started a nonprofit called Urban Choral Arts Society.
McFadden started his organization to help kids cope with the violence and police brutality in their neighborhoods.
“We founded it in 2015. We are going into our fifth season. It was pretty much a product of the unrest that was happening in Baltimore as a result of the murdering of Freddie Gray. I was teaching in Booker T. Washington Middle School at the time, which was a school in the 21217 zipcode, which is very close to Gilmor Homes, where the incident happened there and the unrest started. I had students that were living in Gilmor Homes and at the time, there were no therapeutic services or counseling services,” says Ronald.
Now, the ensemble sings music nationally and throughout Maryland. Since its start, McFadden says his students in Urban Choral Arts Society have been transformed by choral music.
He says, “I know students that have experienced high levels of trauma and their disposition shifts when they are experiencing and making music. I think about choral music and the therapy that does for students when they have to breathe deep breaths.”
UCAS offers college scholarships to their best and brightest. Most of those scholarships are funded by donations given at performances. With COVID-19 cancellations, UCAS has lost thousands in funding.
Ronald and his board plan on applying for funding but say they want to be good stewards of public dollars.
As for his day job at BCPS, Ronald supports digital and distance learning.
“If there is still a chance of death or if there is still a chance of negative impact no matter how small it is. I don’t think it’s a risk that we need to take with so many unknowns with this silent terrorist COVID-19,” he said of returning to classrooms.
McFadden maintains that no matter how classrooms change going forward, the arts cannot be forgotten.
Ronald said, “We can’t go back. This crisis is teaching us that we can’t do things the way that we’ve always been doing them. We just have to think outside the box to make sure that we move forward but the arts have to be a part of everything that we do. Naturally, it has to be.”
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