NJSO CHAMPS (Character, Achievement and Music Project)

NJSO CHAMPS (Character, Achievement and Music Project) is an intensive education program inspired by the Venezuelan social change and music education program El Sistema. NJSO CHAMPS seeks to harness the power of music to enhance students’ lives by fostering social and academic success. Through the NJSO CHAMPS partnership with Philip’s Academy Charter School in Newark, up to 50 students in grades three through six receive after-school instruction in violin, viola or cello for two hours per day, two days per week. Students have performed with the NJSO and with the NJSO Youth Orchestras in public concerts, in community settings and at school assemblies.

Program Offers

  • Intensive after-school instruction—including group string lessons and full ensemble rehearsals—for up to two hours per day, up to two days per week.
  • Professional musicians serve as teaching artists, giving violin, viola and cello lessons.
  • At least four public performances annually, including concerts at NJPAC.
  • Educational chamber music performances by NJSO musicians.
  • Family Fun Days for students and parents.
  • Complimentary tickets to select NJSO concerts.

Program Impact


“A lot of people don’t get to express themselves through an instrument—this gives me the opportunity to do that.”
—CHAMPS participant since 2013 Shantreea J.

“She makes me proud every time I see her play.  She gets better and better every day! The music also helps her to stay more focused (in school).”
—parent of Shantreea J.

“[CHAMPS] is an intense program; it’s the longest after-school program [at UHCS], and it’s through that commitment and duration that students are accelerating in their capacity to learn music. They’re learning not only the mechanics of the violin but also the notation, theory and history. There is also a big character-development piece that [helps students understand] how developing their skills on the [violin, viola and cello] can help them become better people. It’s difficult to learn an instrument. It’s something that requires perseverance and grit and coming back to it, practicing over and over. Students are already commenting that the confidence they have from persevering with [their instrument] is helping them in their classwork. It’s also helping them in their capacity to work with each other.”
—UHCS Former Executive Director and CHAMPS Co-Founder Misha Simmonds

View photo and video highlights of last season's performances!

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The NJSO is grateful to the following supporters of NJSO CHAMPS:
Frank and Lydia Bergen Foundation
Marjorie Bunnell Charitable Fund
The Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation
The Ralph M. Cestone Foundation
The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
Ken and Susan Fahrenholtz
Leavens Foundation
The Harold I. and Faye B. Liss Foundation
Merck Foundation
New Jersey State Council on the Arts 
Panasonic Corporation of North America
Turrell Fund
Wells Fargo

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This program is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.