On a sad note, P.S. 41 cuts its music classes and talented teacher

Eve Zanni’s cover photo from her 2008 “Mermaids” album.  PHOTO BY MICHAEL KEEL

Eve Zanni’s cover photo from her 2008 “Mermaids” album. PHOTO BY MICHAEL KEEL

BY CLARISSA-JAN LIM  | P.S. 41, the West Village’s highly sought-after elementary school, has let go its longtime music teacher, Eve Zanni, following the elimination of its in-school music classes.

The decision was made in part due to the Department of Education budget changes affecting the number of classes, and a host of other “realities,” according to parent coordinator Michelle Farinet.

The change in the number of classes resulted in insufficient “non-classroom time” (classes outside the mandated curriculum, such as dance and music), said Farinet, and the school had to ax one full-time cluster position. 

“The cluster music position was eliminated,” Farinet stressed, “not the music program.” 

She said that although the music position was cut, the school still incorporates music in its regular classes. 

“Forty-one is a very, very arts-oriented school,” she said of the W. 11th St. school. “Art is integrated, along with music and dance, all throughout the curriculum. We have teachers who play the piano or guitar and integrate music [in their teaching],” she said. “When we’re looking at the school size and what we can offer for the day, we would not cut our great appreciation and feeling that music is really important to the children’s education and daily lives.”

P.S. 41 also provides a $400 afterschool music program, though Farinet said that it was not presented as an alternative or a replacement. P.S. 41 has always offered afterschool programs, and this one in particular was already being offered before the elimination of the music class, she noted.

“We’d love to have everything all the time,” said Farinet, of the subject offerings at P.S. 41, “but that wasn’t going to be the reality.”

In an interesting side note, Jazz musician and Grammy award-winner Wynton Marsalis has a child enrolled in the school.

The decision to cut Zanni and the music class she taught was made at the close of the 2013-14 school year by the school’s administration, and parents were alerted of it in August. Parents are not consulted on matters of employment.

In the letter that was sent to parents informing them of the decision, Farinet wrote: “Coming into this year and coming from an extremely complicated and myriad set of factors involving scheduling, school numbers, staffing situations and many other things, one full-time cluster position had to be eliminated. This had nothing to do with our rezoning (as there seems to be somewhat of a fallacy about that.)”

However, sources told The Villager that D.O.E.’s rezoning cut down student enrollment, and consequently the school budget. 

Parent Julia Karow, whose son has graduated from P.S. 41 but whose daughter still goes there, said the unexpected news left her wondering what it would mean for the music offerings at the school this year. 

“The school’s doing a lot to try to replace what Eve used to do, but obviously there’s no more in-school music classes,” she said.

However, the school has come up with a new chorus and school band, Rhythm Cats, in place of Zanni’s Groove Cats. Both the chorus and band are free of charge.

Zanni was beloved by parents and students alike. Her classes spanned an array of genres, cultures and historical events. Karow credited her with instilling an appreciation for jazz in her son, who is now a member of the jazz band at his middle school.

“We loved her,” Karow said. “She was a great teacher and very kind to the kids.”

She later added in an e-mail that besides the surprise of Zanni’s abrupt termination, she felt that neither the parents nor the students could give the veteran music teacher an appropriate sendoff.

“None of us had an opportunity to express our gratitude for all she has done, and to properly say goodbye,” Karow said. “I very much hope there will be an opportunity to do so.”

A 30-year Village resident, Zanni lives in the Westbeth artists complex, at West and Bethune Sts. She declined to comment for this article.

As well as being a beloved music teacher in her former day job, Zanni is an accomplished jazz singer.

Her original arrangements embrace classic jazz, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban and Middle Eastern rhythms. Zanni leads two ensembles of her own — Jazzmundo and The Sweethots — and has performed with many jazz greats. 

She is a regular performer at the annual Lester Young Memorial Celebration,  held at St. Peter’s Church in New York City.

Her original composition “Gypsy Wave Dance” was selected as a feature on “Tennjazz,” available on Imaginary Records.

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