JOYFUL JOYFUL:  A special celebratory virtual program paid tribute to Ludwig Van Beethoven’s 250th birthday during the pandemic crisis academic school year, presenting a unique opportunity for the students and teachers of Prince George’s County Public Schools. 

by Patrick D. McCoy

The Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts (CAAPA), a non-profit arts organization supporting Black classical musicians and youth, partnered with Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) during the 2020-2021 school year.  Originally scheduled to be an in-person, year-long event, “Ode to Joy:  Beethoven’s Birthday Celebration” quickly pivoted to a virtual format, making the project a rousing success.  Leading the effort was CAAPA Project Manager Ky’Lend Adams, with the additional support and assistance of the PGCPS Creative and Arts team led by Lee Gibbs and Anita Lambert.

The original program included several arts elements, live chorus and orchestra performances, along with a trip to Carnegie Hall.  This all underwent major scaling back due to COVID-19 pandemic.  To this end, CDC distance learning regulations that were instituted, allowing the program to continue.  As a culmination of this project, several students were the recipients of top prizes for their creative efforts.  They are as follows:


1st Place Winner:   Nehemias Ramos Prize:  $100.00

TOPIC: “Did Beethoven have African Ancestry?”  A History of Black Classical Musicians During Beethoven’s Time”


High School Winner: Matthew Salgado $100.00

Middle School Winner: Malachi Hicks, $75.00

Elementary School Winner:  Amani Jones, $50.00

Honorable Mention: Mariah Hicks $25.00

OBJECTIVE:  Students were challenged to create an expression of visual art inspired by Beethoven’s music.

BEETHOVEN ESSAY CONTEST:  (CAAPA Facilitator Dr. Debra Mahone)

DISCUSSION TOPIC: “If you traveled in a time capsule to Beethoven’s time in history and spent 24 hours with composer, how would that look?”

High School Winner: Aryanna Britingham  $100.00

Middle School Winner: Dayna Kamgang $75.00

Elementary School Winner: Elijah Barnett $50.00.

The essay contest winners were also presented on WETA through a partnership CAAPA with the Washington, DC based PBS affiliate.

Additionally, the students’ projects will be featured in a culminating video that will be released in September 2021 as a review of the last year and kickoff for next year’s project (2021-2022) in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance. The Beethoven video also includes music performed by the students under the direction of PGCPS Judith Hawkins – Vocal General Music Supervisor, and Lionel Harrell – Instrumental Music Supervisor and Paul Hatton- Instrumental Music Instructional Specialist. PGCPS Thomas Pullen Middle School Director of Vocal and Choral Music Thomas Pierre submitted an independent Beethoven presentation.


CAAPA congratulates and lifts up all of the students and teachers who embraced the

Beethoven’s 250th Birthday Celebration during such a challenging time. They could not have done it without the parents who also persevered and encouraged their children to participate.

For more information about CAAPA, please email or contact the office at 301-839-1444.


A native of Petersburg, VA, Patrick holds a BM in Vocal Performance from Virginia State University and a MM in Church Music from Shenandoah Conservatory. Formerly the Performing Arts Columnist for Washington Life Magazine, he currently is a freelance writer, publishing articles for several noted publications, including The Washington Post, Early Music America Classical Music Voice North America, The Afro-American Newspaper, CBS Washington and Profiling some of the most celebrated artists of our time, he most recently interviewed the famed conductor and composer John Rutter on “Across the Arts.” Patrick is a member of the Board of Directors of the Music Critics Association of North America, National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc., The American Choral Directors’ Association, a member of the Shenandoah University Alumni Board of Directors and a Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He serves as Organist/Choirmaster at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Zion Parish in Beltsville, MD and serves as an adjunct professor of music faculty of Virginia State University where he teaches applied voice and music appreciation.