The young singers of Staten Island, New York's PS22 Chorus have been part of the feel-good story of the year.
Internet videos of the fourth- and fifth-graders performing covers of Lady Gaga's "Just Dance," Coldplay's "Viva la Vida," Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" and other pop songs have propelled them into the national spotlight. The chorus has been featured on "Good Morning America" and within the pages of The New York Times.
It might not have been possible without the foresight of chorus director Gregg Breinberg, who the kids affectionately call "Mr. B." Breinberg posted videos of the chorus covering Tori Amos songs, which caught the attention of the singer's fans, including Perez Hilton.
"Perez Hilton has been a huge fan," Breinberg said. "He's really supported us from the beginning. He's the one who really got these kids on the map."
The New York school system has been in a budget crunch, and many schools have been forced to eliminate music programs. The singers' online fame has helped keep the chorus intact.
"These kids need to know that there are other options for them aside from being a reader or a mathematician," he said. "Some people — children, adults — are not meant to be wonderful readers, wonderful mathematicians. Does that mean they have nothing else to contribute to our society? Absolutely not."
Breinberg said learning music can also lend itself to learning other subjects. Breinberg incorporated math into the music curriculum using rhythm equations.
One of his students, Alexandra Stein, said it helped a lot. "Math has just gotten easier for me," she said. "Mr. B is always telling us to focus, and ... when we get into class, we focus some more."
Fifth-grader Justin Restrepo also said his newfound focus is paying off. "He motivates us, because after we do everything, all the work, we always get rewarded at the end," he said. "We met Rihanna. How many kids like us, our age, got to meet her?"