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“I think we sound better when we play all together,” Thomas, a fifth grader at Grant Elementary School in Trenton, said as he and his classmates prepared to join the Princeton Symphony Orchestra for the PSO’s annual Holiday POPS! concert at Richardson Auditorium.

Thomas is a member of Trenton Music Makers, created last year by the Trenton Community Music School.

With this year’s Greater Mercer Grant from the Princeton Area Community Foundation, music school leaders hope to expand the program at Grant School and replicate it at the Grace A. Dunn Middle School, said Carol C. Burden, the Executive Director, of the Trenton Community Music School.

Students enrolled in similar programs elsewhere showed improvements in memory, attention, and inhibition control and had better than average graduation rates. Organizers here are hoping for similar results. In the meantime, the program is helping youngsters learn to collaborate and face their fears.

“When I played in front of so many people I felt both scared and brave at the same time,” said another music student, Wyaliz.