Supporter Spotlight: Joseph Della Fave- Back to ArtSmart's Roots

Joseph Della Fave (right) with his nephew Michael Fabiano (co-founder) and wife Laurie Fabiano at an ArtSmart benefit

Joseph Della Fave was instrumental in ArtSmart’s beginning, playing a major role in sponsoring ArtSmart’s very first program at Eastside High School in Newark, NJ. It was actually his idea to start ArtSmart in Newark! Mr. Della Fave is the former Executive Director of the Ironbound Community Corporation, retiring from the position in 2019. He is also uncle to co-founder Michael Fabiano and now resides in New York City with his wife Laurie Fabiano, also an avid ArtSmart supporter.

Why Newark?

When Michael brought the idea of ArtSmart to him, Mr. Della Fave suggested starting ArtSmart at Eastside High School in the Ironclad section of Newa

rk because it was where Michael’s grandmother Marie Fabiano graduated. For Mr. Della Fave, this would be the return of the prodigal grandson. Marie was a talented concert pianist, whose accolades included performing at Carnegie Hall, and had a major influence on Michael.

Why do you support ArtSmart?

“ArtSmart provides that extra enrichment, stimulation, broadening of horizons, building of passion for music, and, if not a career, a tremendous appreciation. It strengthens students’ capacity to focus and be engaged in learning in general. I think the success of so many students who have been a part of ArtSmart demonstrates that. Bringing the arts into and expanding the arts in schools brings such an enrichment for students, who learn to express themselves in many new and different ways that they may have never tapped into before. ArtSmart helps bring students out of their shells, offering them new communications skills to engage with other students and their teachers, possibly their families. It is incredible enrichment that touches students’ lives in so many different ways.”

Young Michael Fabiano pictured with his grandmother Maria Fabiano smiling
Michael Fabiano pictured with his grandmother Marie

Why should others support ArtSmart?

“Any donor wants to know that where they put their dollar there is meaningful impact. I have seen ArtSmart’s impact up close and personal by being at sites and seeing the work of students—the joy, the passion—and how this spills out into other aspects of their lives. In this case we are talking about music mentorship, which does not get a lot of attention on its own in the education system. For both impact and, ArtSmart delivers for the students and the donors.”


Mr. Della Fave has lead a life in service, passionate about supporting the most vulnerable and working towards greater equity and justice matters. For 35+ years, he served Newark in community development, social services, and equity and justice advocacy through the Ironclad Community Corporation. Previously he served as a Hoboken councilman and Chairman of the History Department at Saint Peter’s Prep.


Joseph Della Fave (left) with Co-Founder John Viscardi and wife Laurie Fabiano

Born and raised in Hoboken, NJ


Undergraduate Economics at Saint Peters University and Graduate Labor Studies at Rutgers University


“I love to cook… everything but specifically Italian food, pizza, focaccia, pastas, and breads.”

Music participation:

“I love to sing, but when I do I clear out the room!  Not my forte. My wife’s side is the musical side. There wasn’t much musical talent in my family growing up, except for an appreciation of Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Roselli.”

Thank you, Mr. Della Fave!

Opera San Jose and ArtSmart Commemorate New Partnership With Fundraising Initiative, ARTS FOR ALL

Arts For All will be presented 4:30pm–7:00pm, Saturday, May 6.

Opera San José and ArtSmart have announced a new partnership to support free voice lessons, musical opportunities, and mentorship for under-resourced students in San José.

"With arts education being cut from schools, it is up to organizations like ours to step in and work to eliminate economic barriers to arts access," says Opera San José General Director Shawna Lucey. "By working together, we can greatly expand the impact on our communities. Everyone deserves the chance to express themselves through the magic of music."

In celebration of this new collaboration, OSJ and ArtSmart invite Bay Area music lovers to its Arts For All fundraising initiative in the historic downtown district of Redwood City, where attendees will have a delightful opportunity to witness how opera comes to life. Guests will be welcomed with delicious hors d'oeuvres and open bar cocktails as they view auction items - from European Viking Rivers Cruises to a private at-home concert; one-on-one time with opera industry leaders, unique artwork, the chance to be a supernumerary in an OSJ production next year, and much more.

Come celebrate with us! Great food - open bar - fabulous auction items and a must-see concert!

Join us to hear world famous operatic tenor and ArtSmart co-founder Michael Fabiano perform alongside the Opera San José (OSJ) Resident Artists. The evening will also include a mini-masterclass with Michael, General Director Shawna Lucey, and star of OSJ’s Tosca, Maria Natale. Don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness how opera comes to life!

Come celebrate our new partnership, which supports free voice lessons and mentorship for under-resourced students in San José. Click HERE for more info on what we hope to accomplish together in our community.


WHEN Saturday May 6, 2023

WHERE Angelica’s Restaurant - 863 Main St., Redwood City, CA 94063


4:30pm - Enjoy hors d’oeuvres and open bar as you view auction items such as European Viking River Cruises
5:30pm - Performance begins
6:15pm - Mix and mingle with the artists at the reception
7:00pm - Auction concludes and event ends

TICKETS: $150 per person. Click HERE to Purchase your ticket!

If you cannot attend, please consider donating $25-$50-$100 by check or online in honor of Arts for All.

Kathryn Moran | Success Stories | Introducing ArtSmart’s Remote Outreach Program

In 2022, ArtSmart piloted a Remote Outreach Program in partnership with We Are Instrumental. Kathryn Moran, now a graduating senior, was one of the first students to receive virtual voice lessons in the Adirondacks, where there is a lack of teachers for extracurricular activities due to geographical barriers. Hear Kathryn talk about how lessons and her relationship with her mentor Erin (streaming in from Cincinnati) have impacted her. Kathryn’s choir teacher Michael Iturrino and Evan Mack, Executive Director of We Are Instrumental, also share their observations. After graduating, Kathryn plans to attend community college to get a general education degree before deciding what she wants to major in. Music education might be one of her choices!

Read the transcription below:

Kathryn: Hi, my name is Kathryn Moran. I go to Ticonderoga High School in Ticonderoga, NY. And I have been in the joint We Are Instrumental- ArtSmart program since 2022.

Mike: My name is Mike Iturrino and I am the Director of Instrumental and Choral Music at Ticonderoga High School.

Evan: Hi, my name is Evan Mack. I am the executive Director of We Are Instrumental. We are a strategic partner with ArtSmart. My organization is based in the Adirondacks in Northern New York. We are in a rural area. I am also a mentor in composition for ArtSmart.

Kathryn: The most important thing to me about my lessons and singing is having something constant. Every Tuesday at 11 I have my lesson with Erin. It is so wonderful to have something that I can rely on every week, someone who I am always able to talk to about singing or school or my family or my teachers. It’s wonderful. Someone who always cares about you. It is amazing to have that kind of person in your life.

Mike: These lessons have had a profound effect on our students. I’ve witnessed first hand how these lessons have increased the competency and confidence in each of our students. I have students who are eager to audition for solos. I have students who are eager to participate in solo festivals, any sort of performing opportunity, and they have become absolute leaders in our program. During rehearsals they are the first to raise their hands and offer some advice as well as share their experiences with these lesson programs. The confidence our kids have gotten not only in their musical abilities but in themselves has been absolutely monuments in the level and I am so grateful for it.

Evan: Our partnership began last year with a pilot program where we took ArtSmart’s model and We Are Instrumental’s model of creating access and created this hybrid learning experience where students have weekly digital lessons. We started off with my idea of a pilot program of once-a-month lessons because kids don’t have access to private teachers, especially because of the geographical barrier. For example the nearest horn teacher could be two hours away. And when I started talking with ArtSmart, they were able to magically turn this into weekly lessons, which has been thrilling. So since the pilot program started last year, we now have 15 students enrolled and we do voice, composition, horn. Clarinet, flute, and saxophone. So we have expanded in terms of the instrumental space.

Kathryn: Since I became a junior, I started taking vocal lessons with my vocal coach Erin. I had no prior knowledge to learning how to sing or read any music and it was very difficult to learn. And she has helped me so much on my musical journey. I’ve taken so many opportunities that I would have never been able to take if I had not had her help.

Mike: Kathryn is now a senior in high school but started in choir with us last year in our school district as an eleventh grader. When she started choir, she was very eager to sing but has no formal training. She came from our private Catholic school which had no music teacher. When Kathryn first started, she was a meek, shy student. And now Kathryn will be conducting a piece on our spring concert, which she is teaching to the choir herself in Latin.

Kathryn: With her teaching me music, it has helped me so much in my chorus program, in my band program, all the [music] conferences that I’ve gone to. I have had so many great experiences.

Evan: It’s been amazing to watch our kids transform. You can see that they have more confidence. They have goals that they want to set forward and execute. And the results are things like higher attendance rate in school or higher dedication to the music program. More students are not applying for the NYSSMA Solo Festival and they are actually doing it at a higher level. The results are bearing fruit and quite evident.

Mike: These things would not be possible without the expert tutelage and confidence from her lesson teacher Erin Alcorn. My students love Erin and I can see firsthand the effect that she has on them every single day when they come to rehearsal.

Evan: Particularly with Kathryn, it’s been amazing to watch her confidence grow, to see her grounded in the space in the sense of having short, medium, and longterm goals and hitting those goals. So it’s thrilling to watch her progress as the year moves on and in her work with Erin in lessons.

Kathryn: In my lessons I have developed so much self-confidence and self-belief. Before my lessons, I had awful stage fright and always feared going on stage. It took something I loved and became something I hated and dreaded. Now, in my lessons, me and Erin have developed ways to ground myself before I go on stage. IT has helped me so much to take something I loved and then feared and now it is something I love again. And I always look forward to performing now.


ArtSmart Students Perform in Jersey City’s District-Wide Showcase, April 25, 6PM

Mentor Carmen Cancél (third from right) poses with ArtSmart students at Lincoln High School

Music Mentorship Builds Community and Increases School Attendance

ArtSmart Students Perform “True Colors” at Jersey City Public School's District-Wide Showcase on April 25, 6PM

“…it's my hope that [the students] absorb the lyrics and really understand that they are not alone and that they are beautiful,”
–Carmen Cancél, ArtSmart mentor

“There are students who were failing because of attendance, who are now coming to school in order to participate; and applying themselves in class so that their teachers allow them to attend the ArtSmart program.”
–Crissa Dragotti, Lincoln High School music teacher


When funding is low, extracurricular activities like choir and band are often the first to get cut. But the arts are, for many, the passion that drives school attendance and academic success. A relationship with an adult mentor only further increases student engagement.

Enter ArtSmart.

At Lincoln High School, Crissa Dragotti is the sole music instructor. She teaches keyboard and guitar classes, music exploration, and drum line. There are no official choir or band programs. “My supervisor brought ArtSmart to me asking if I would help implement it. This is the first year of the program at Lincoln High School,” recounted Dragotti.

ArtSmart is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to serving students in under-resourced communities with arts education by paid, professional mentors. 15 students participate in the ArtSmart program at Lincoln High, receiving, at no cost, weekly private voice lessons and mentorship from ArtSmart mentor Carmen Cancél.

Cancél, who has taught for ArtSmart for three years and piloted the program at Lincoln High School, teaches all of the private voice lessons, and recently started group rehearsals to provide the students a chance to come together.

She said, “It’s incredibly beneficial for the students to learn to collaborate and listen to one another. It’s been fun to watch them take ownership of their vocal parts (three-part harmony) as they memorize and rehearse together. The camaraderie and encouragement they gain from working together is a huge plus.”

Dragotti has seen ArtSmart’s impact as well. “I have seen students who had low confidence blossom over the last few months. There are students who were failing because of attendance, who are now coming to school in order to participate; and applying themselves in class so that their teachers allow them to attend the ArtSmart program.”

Mentor Carmen Cancél conducts ArtSmart students at Lincoln High School to prepare for their performance at the Jersey City District-Wide Showcase

The ArtSmart group’s collaboration led to an invitation to represent Lincoln High School at Jersey City Public Schools District-Wide Showcase "Watch Them Bloom.” 

“It will be a great performance opportunity for the students, and a chance for the district to see what ArtSmart can create at a school, even if there is no music program already established there,” said Cancél.

“I think it’s a wonderful way to show off to the students’ peers, parents, and community. They have worked hard and come so far in just a few months,” continued Dragotti.

The ArtSmart students at Lincoln High, where 63% of the school’s students are Black and 29% of students are Hispanic, have to keep their coursework up-to-date in order to attend any extra rehearsals for the District Wide Showcase.[1] “They've done a good job of that so far,” recounted Cancél.

The students, conducted by Cancél, will perform the song “True Colors.”

“I've always loved the lyrics of ‘True Colors’ (song by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, originally sung by Cyndi Lauper), and I find it especially meaningful for young people who are developing their own identity while dealing with the stress and angst that comes with being a teen in this current world. It's powerful hearing these lyrics sung by young people - and it's my hope that they absorb the lyrics and really understand that they are not alone, and they are beautiful,” said Cancél.

ArtSmart is founded on the belief that arts education is a necessary and critical part of cognitive, emotional, and academic development— and where the curriculum-based U.S. education system often falls short. This most notably impacts students in under-resourced communities who often lack access to arts-based classes.

Overwhelming research and ArtSmart’s collective data show that students who have access to arts education, especially when delivered one-to-one or in small-group settings, have improved mental health, self-confidence, and academic success.[2] All of which paves the way to a bright and vibrant future.

As for the future, Cancél is already making plans. “It is my hope that we have enough students audition for the ArtSmart program at Lincoln High next year, so we can begin a vocal theatre program, where they'll have this kind of collaborative interaction every week.”


Mentor Carmen Cancél (third from right) goofs off with ArtSmart students at Lincoln High School