Oscar’s Best Musical Performance: P.S. 22’s 5th-graders

By Anne Collier

I can’t stop watching/listening to them, so – if you didn’t catch the Oscars last night (or stay tuned till the so-not-bitter end) and aren’t already a fan – catch this: P.S. 22’s 5th-grade chorus singing a cover of MGMT’s “Kids” or Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” (Jared soloing), which has so far been viewed more than 1.6 million times. Or catch amazing soloist Denise in their cover of “Firework” (here’s Katy Perry’s official “Firework” video). As you may know, these 10-year-olds are not students at a special arts magnet or charter school. This is a regular public elementary school in Staten Island, N.Y. Their teacher, “Mr. B.” (Gregg Breinberg), started posting their pop music covers on YouTube in 2006, and now – every year – P.S. 22’s 5th-graders are celebrities, with grownup artists like Queen Latifah and Tori Amos performing with them on occasion. Mr. B’s chorus went viral after PerezHilton.com started posting their music videos, the New York Ties reported back in 2008. But treat yourself to the Times’s video of their story last month – including the part about getting invited to fly to L.A. and perform in the Academy Awards show (on a special V.I.P United Airlines flight, the first time many of them had flown). Here’s their just-posted Oscar performance, with all the Academy Award winners on stage behind them (they also performed at Disneyland). This is not social media used in school (educational wikis, blogs, games, video sharing, etc.), of which I’m a big supporter, but it’s certainly a powerful way to use social media for authentic learning on many levels. These children are doing professional work at and because of school, respectfully supported by their teacher and school staff (their principal, Melissa Donath, told the New York Times that Mr. B is “very modest, but he always makes sure that the kids are treated like professionals and he gives them the utmost respect. Every year, he brings out the best in our children.” [Here’s the chorus’s channel on YouTube.]

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