Philly Rising: Belmont Voices concert brings the showstopper out of students

Antionette Lee
October 31, 2019 - 4:00 am

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Part of a West Philadelphia community is in for a treat every quarter at Belmont Charter School, where students from second to seventh grade get to explore their creativity by putting on a concert called Belmont Voices. And the turnout? You have to hear it to believe it. 

The program started when the music teacher, Jacqueline Pochadt, better known as Ms. Po, had a vision to start a choir. She wanted to get away from the traditional music class structure and give students a chance to use their talent more creatively and in ways that felt more natural to them.

"Every kid is going to come from a different circumstance. We basically just make it inclusive," she said.

It began as an after-school program with only a couple dozen students. Now, with the help of other dedicated staff like school choreographer Folashade Forman, the performance has blossomed into a "Broadway-like" production with more than 100 eager participants. 

"In the urban communities, we don't really have the finances to be able to put our children in dance programs and theater programs because they're like thousands and thousands of dollars," Forman said. "But what Belmont is doing, what me and Ms. Po are doing, is giving them an experience of the arts that they wouldn't get if they weren't in an arts school. We're bringing the arts to them here in this community."

Forman says she has watched students grow from their exposure to the arts.

"If you do the right thing in class, if you get your grades in, that's the only way you're able to participate. So, because they're so happy and excited to do that, it helps them academically as well," she said.

Cyon Deas, 11, was the sound technician for the latest show and says though he likes to learn, the best part of being involved in the concert was being taken out of class. 

Text of a quote when Belmont Charter School music teacher Jacqueline Pochadt spoke about Belmont Voices.
Courtesy of Stephen Pochadt

But there's more to it than that.

"I'm learning how to be a better person. I'm learning how to follow rules more," he said. 

The parents and staff also get a kick out of seeing the kids flourish on the stage during the quarterly concerts. The audience is united through laughter, cheering, and even tears through the production to remember. 

"In this building, we have greatness going on. No matter what barriers we have, no matter what issues we have, there's nothing but greatness going on at Belmont Charter School," said Pochadt.

Though some of the students find it challenging to step out of their shells, the excitement on all of their faces during and after the performances is the real showstopper.

"Our children are able to do it, they are capable of doing it, just give them a chance and you'll see them fly," Forman added.