White House Honors Zumix with Prestigious Award

The White House has announced that East Boston’s premier popular music and performing arts program has won the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

Zumix, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building community through music and the arts, will be hosting “The House Party” at their facility on the corner of Sumner and Orleans Street tonight at 4:00 p.m. to celebrate the monumental achievement.

The announcement came this morning as Ixchel Garcia, 15, of Eastie was at the White House to receive the award from First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of Zumix, which was recognized for its effectiveness in developing learning and life skills in young people by engaging them in music and the arts.

Garcia has been attending Zumix for the past eight years and has grown tremendously from a very shy child into a confident, accomplished young woman.  She plays guitar for the band Annual Snowfall, is an extremely talented youth technician, and dreams of attending MIT and starting her own audio engineering company.

Today, Garcia stood in the East Room of the White House to accept the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from First Lady Obama.

“I’m so honored that I was chosen to represent Zumix at the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.,” said Garcia. “This is a really amazing day for Zumix and for myself, and I know it’s an experience that I’ll never forget.”

Chosen from a pool of more than 471 nominations and 50 finalists, Zumix was one of 12 after-school and out-of-school programs across the country to receive the award, which is the highest honor such programs can receive in the United States.

The awards are administered by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The award honors community-based arts and humanities programs that make a marked difference in the lives of their participants by improving academic scores and graduation rates, enhancing life skills, developing positive relationships with peers and adults, and expressing themselves creatively.

“We were very confident about our chances,” said Zumix Founder and Director Madeleine Steczynski. “This really is a dream come true for this little music program in Eastie. To win such a national honor was beyond my wildest dreams when we first started back in 1991.”

Zumix was created to empower youth to use music to make strong, positive change in their lives, their communities, and the world. Since its founding in 1991, the program has grown to serve more than 400 young people every year in programs in instrumental instruction, songwriting and performance, community radio, and creative technology.  They serve an additional 400 young people per year through in-school partnerships with East Boston High School and the Umana Middle School Academy.  The powerful impact of the program is illustrated by the fact that in the past 4 years, 92 percent of its graduates enrolled in college. In 2011, 100 percent of its graduates went to college, including two on full scholarship to Berklee College of Music.

The award was celebrated by a number of its long-time partners and supporters, including Senator Anthony Petruccelli. City Councilor Sal LaMattina, Representative Carlo Basile and Mayor Thomas Menino.

“Zumix’s innovative approach using music to empower young people is brilliant and has produced spectacular results,” said Petruccelli. “For over 20 years, Zumix

has had a tremendous impact on the youth of Boston and has achieved artistic distinction throughout the Commonwealth. Zumix’s tireless dedication has provided a comfortable environment, as well as countless opportunities, for young individuals seeking to express themselves artistically.”

In addition to the national recognition bestowed by receipt of the prestigious award, Zumix will also receive $10,000 to support its programming and engage more young people from the community.

“We hope this award will draw attention to the documented fact that programs like ours are essential investments not just in the lives of our young people, but in our community, as well,” said Steczynski. “We’re incredibly proud of this achievement and of the young people, volunteers, supporters, board and staff who made it possible.”

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