BIV continues to fill void as “STEM to STEAM” movement pushes forward


 is a familiar acronym for anyone with ties in the education system. Whether you’re a parent with school-aged children, a professional working in the field, or a student yourself, it’s likely you know that STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.

The acronymn dates back to the early 2000s when Judith Ramaley, who then worked for the National Science Foundation, coined it to show the connection between the individual disciplines. The acroymn also created a succinct means to steer students toward STEM-related classes and careers thought to result in a more competitive workforce and better economy.

Since then, an insistence surrounding STEM subjects has developed and grown tremendously, working its way into the country’s consciousness and educational policies alike.

READ MORE: Ramaley coined STEM term now used nationwide

While much support continues today for the STEM movement, a push to add a missing letter to the ubiquitous acronym has gained momentum recently.

Other advocates contend that STEM is really better suited as  including an “A” for the arts.

“I think there is a mindset that things like music and art are add-ons, and are not integral parts of education,” Paul Cothran, executive director of VH1 Save The Music, said in a town hall meeting last May. “Kids tell us that having music gave them a reason to go to school, and stay in school.”

ALSO: Is Studying the Arts in School Important?

Substantial research repeatedly points to the importance of arts education. Yet evidence suggests that many school arts programs have dissolved over time due to reallocation of resources toward STEM curriculum. That leaves organizations like Cothran’s and New York’s Broadway Inspirational Voices (BIV) to pick up the slack.

BIV, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, has been giving back and paying it forward for over two decades. The diverse group of Broadway performers collaborate each year to produce signature music programs for underserved communities throughout NYC.

“We go into elementary schools and work with organizations that deal with students in dire circumstances,” Tony Award nominee and BIV’s founder Michael McElroy tells “One part of our outreach is singing and bringing music to communities around us, and the other part is service and inspiring the next generation of artists.”

What is Broadway Inspirational Voices – (BIV Production)

Among their most noted outreach efforts is a program called 1, 2, 3… In the Key of Me in which BIV devises music programs at schools where arts funding has fallen short. For a semester, students partake in activities such as writing music, playing instruments and learning sign language. The students then display their newfound talents in a performance for peers, faculty and family.

In the group’s other pillar program, Stories in the Key of Me, BIV partners with the Ronald McDonald House to pair pediatric cancer patients with Broadway composers. During their time together patients are given an opportunity to create a song based on their life experiences. The pieces are later presented in a concert featuring BIV members and others from Broadway.

The advocacy work performed by BIV is commendable and an example of what’s needed as the shift from STEM to STEAM advances. McElroy says the group is committed, more than ever before, to ensuring youth receive the exponential benefits of arts programming.

“That’s one of the reasons why we do this,” McElroy says. “A lot us are here pursuing our dreams because we had arts in our schools and communities, and people who were mentors to us. It’s really imperative, especially in today’s time, that we give back.”

On February 15, BIV will host a benefit concert to support their outreach activities. Billed as Inspirational Broadway, the one night event will feature some of Broadway’s most celestial voices as they put new spins on various classics.

“It’s bringing together our two worlds,” McElroy says. “We’re taking our Broadway roots and combining it with our gospel roots.”

Confirmed performers include Billy Porter, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Joshua Henry, Telly Leung, Chad Kimball, Eden Espinosa, Jarrod Spector, Adam Pascal, Marcus Paul James, and Norm Lewis.

Tickets begin at $30, and a VIP package is also available.

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