Arts & Culture Community Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange Towns

$10,500 in Instruments & Lessons Awarded by Vanessa Pollock Initiative to 7 SOMSD Students


Vanessa Pollock Music Initiative 1st Annual Award Winners

Proud families and teachers gathered in the South Orange-Maplewood School District meeting room on November 2, to watch seven accomplished high school musicians receive the inaugural awards from the Achieve Foundation’s Vanessa Pollock Music Initiative.

Each award was tailored to the specific needs of the students. Some received new professional grade instruments: a trombone, a clarinet and a violin. Others received funding for private instruction over the course of the 2015-16 school year. The awards totaled a value of $10,500.

Principal Elizabeth Aaron expressed thanks on behalf of Columbia High School before presenting the awards to recipients Jessica Brice, Aanu Fawole, Ahmad Holiday, Autumn Jones, Louise Kern-Kensler, Lauren Kret and Isaiah Thomas.

CHS Band Director Peter Bauer, Choral Director Jamie Buntz and Orchestra Director Todd Van Beveren nominated the students for the Pollock awards, selecting students based on their extraordinary achievements in music to date — including effort, dedication and musicianship — as well as need.

The awards were provided through the initiative established with the Achieve Foundation by Charlie and Vanessa Pollock and supported by Vanessa’s Keller Williams Realty Team in Maplewood.

At the awards ceremony, Vanessa Pollock spoke of the pleasure and confidence that she and her husband derived from their own performing arts training, which each of them began as children. Pollock stressed the importance of enabling all young performers to pursue the arts vigorously, whether, like her husband Charlie, they become professional actors, or they choose other vocational paths, as she ultimately did.

In addition to the awards, the Pollock Initiative is also benefiting students at all South Orange-Maplewood schools, paying for instrument repairs, rentals for students with financial need and Achieve Teacher Grants for music projects.

Mara Rubin, South Orange-Maplewood School District Supervisor of Fine Arts and Performing Arts, thanked the Achieve Foundation for its role in creating the Pollock Music Initiative and spoke graciously about the Pollocks and their appreciation for the value of music education.

“I want to take this moment to thank you all for the time and generosity that you have given to the music students in the South Orange-Maplewood School District,” said Rubin. “These awards are a true testament to what the Vanessa Pollock Music Initiative stands for, and why I take my job so seriously. Making a difference in students’ lives through the arts is life-changing. I am thrilled to continue this important work together.”

For more information on the initiative or the upcoming “Charlie Pollock and Friends” concert on Monday evening, December 14 in the CHS auditorium, go to or

The Achieve Foundation is a non-profit organization that raises funds to promote exemplary, innovative public education for all students and educators in the School District of South Orange and Maplewood.

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