“Pianist, engineer, advocate”
Jee-Hoon Krska was born in Malaysia where she performed extensively as a young pianist, receiving national exposure through radio broadcast performances. After immigrating to the United States with her family at the age of eleven, she continued her piano studies as a scholarship student in the Juilliard pre-college program. She attended MIT as an undergraduate and as a graduate student, ultimately receiving a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. Throughout her years at MIT, she continued to study piano performance under Dr. David Deveau. During her student years and since, she has performed in numerous concerts including as one of the soloists performing Mozart’s two-piano concerto with the Boston Pops at Boston Symphony Hall. Dr. Krska also spent twenty years working in the semiconductor industry, leading global teams in product development, marketing, and strategy. During the last decade, she has also actively worked to improve the lives of the children of the Pennington Court community in the Ironbound section of Newark, a severely impoverished community, through involvement in a series of projects aimed at fostering their intellectual development and social skills. Most recently, since early 2016, that work has expanded to include teaching piano to young elementary school students, none of whom had had musical training in the past. That teaching provided a springboard for founding Keys 2 Success. The work she has done with this community over the past decade has provided her with a deep understanding of the community and its needs and fostered close relationships with community members, some of whom have actively and enthusiastically supported Keys 2 Success. She also currently serve as the treasurer for the Newark Arts Education Roundtable (NAER).
Overview of Keys 2 Success: The mission of Keys 2 Success is to use music education as a means to personal betterment for Newark’s poorest children. The effects of generations of poverty on legions of disadvantaged children in Newark are not confined to material want. They include lack of access to the cultural inheritance and social network enjoyed by children in more privileged communities. This program, first implemented in the fall of 2016, has generated enthusiasm among children and families already participating, interest in others waiting to enroll, strong support from the school administration, and deepening personal investment from a diverse group of dedicated volunteers drawn from Newark and the surrounding suburban communities. Students who previously had neither musical training nor access to such training are demonstrating progress not only in music but also, and equally importantly, in social skills, self-discipline, and self-confidence.
What makes Keys 2 Success unique and necessary? Although Newark is home to several high quality youth music programs, the city’s poorest children face nearly insurmountable barriers to gaining access to and participating in them. They lack not only musical training but also a network of adults who believe in them and who can help them gain access to these programs and to go on to achieve long-term success in life. Personal mentoring, cultural exposure, and providing that kind of support are among the goals of Keys 2 Success. We are working alongside the families of poor children to create a pathway to participate in and benefit from existing musical opportunities in Newark and to enable them to go on to live productive, satisfying lives.
Services provided by Keys 2 Success: Since the fall of 2016, Keys 2 Success has provided instruction to pupils at Newark’s South Street School, which is part of the city’s public school system and serves many of the elementary and middle school students from the Pennington Court housing project, which is home to many of the poorest minority residents in Newark.
The program began last fall with 12 1st and 2nd grade students receiving daily group piano classes during the regular school day as a ‘“pull out” program. In January, encouraged by the success of the pilot group, the school administration approved dedication of additional space to expand the program to serve 29 students, and also to include formal theory and weekly percussion ensemble training. Our aim for next year is to continue with the students currently enrolled and to start the next cohort of 1st graders and potentially kindergartners. We intend to reach a capacity of 120 students by the fifth year. We plan to include opportunities for participants to collaborate with and audition for other arts organizations