The South Jersey Music Education Partnership (SJMEP) is an all-volunteer non-profit group dedicated to the development of student musicians through scholarships for private instruction, performance opportunities, and mentorships.



Origins of SJMEP

In harder fiscal times, music and arts are often the first programs cut back or removed all together from our public schools.  We believe that Music, Arts, and Cultural programs in schools are just as beneficial to a student’s emerging skills as academic programs.  This organization was originally formed to raise awareness and funds to help students, families and schools to bolster music, arts and cultural programs. Since its inception in 2012, SJMEP has grown with its original mission expanded beyond fundraising for student scholarships for private instruction to offer opportunities for motivated student musicians to rehearse and perform in area venues with professional musicians.

Scholarship Awards

2013 – Awarded 43 scholarships to elementary and middle school students to take instrumental music lessons over the summer

2014 – Awarded 50 scholarships to elementary and middle school students to take instrumental music lessons over the summer

Performance Opportunities

Motivated student musicians are offered the opportunity to perform with the “M-Town Jazz Jam”, a band created for this purpose. M-Town Jazz Jam includes several professional musicians and music educators who rehearse and perform with the students. M-Town Jazz Jam is invited to participate in many large area festivals, special events, and restaurants, including but not limited to Dickens Festival, Medford Arts & Wine Festival, Taste of Medford, Coffee Works in Voorhees, NBC’s 10! Show, P.J. Whelihan’s, and Village of Taunton Forge Friday Night Music Series.


Rehearsals and performance opportunities with professional musicians and music educators are offered regularly to motivated students. These professionals volunteer their time and talents to serve as instructors and role models as they interact informally with the student musicians.

The Pinelands Jazz Festival

The First Annual Pinelands Jazz Festival, offered in partnership with the Dr. James Still Education Center in September 2014, enjoyed great success despite the constraints of a first time event, some parking limitations, and the weather. Even so, hundreds of visitors attended the festival where some of the most outstanding professional jazz musicians in New Jersey and Philadelphia lent their support through performance. Riding on the success of the first event, the Second Annual Pinelands Jazz Festival has had to find a larger venue with Camp Ockanickon where a three day event has been scheduled for the last weekend in August 2015. A number of professional jazz musicians have already reached out and have been confirmed to participate in this second event. A special feature of the event was a second nearby venue called “The Woodshed” where student musicians performed in between the single set performances of the professional groups so that their music might be enjoyed and recognized as well. Non-stop music was provided throughout the day for festival visitors. This successful schedule will be offered as part of the new Pinelands Jazz Festival tradition.

The Woodshed: An Academy for the Development of Musical Performance

As part of the continuing development of the original mission to provide student musicians with opportunities to develop and perform, SJMEP is currently seeking a home from which a variety of adult supervised services might be offered to supplement, not replace, private instruction and experiences the student musician might be finding elsewhere.

This site would provide:

  • Student ensembles directed by professional music educators
  • Master Classes, hosted by professional musicians and music educators
  • Group classes in music theory, ear training, jazz improvisation, arranging, music technology and other basic musicianship skills
  • Supervised rehearsal space for student “startup” bands
  • Regularly scheduled “open mic” nights for student performances

Why is it called “The Woodshed”? For years musicians have been “Woodshedding”, which means practicing their instruments. In the days of log cabins and single room homes, musicians would have to find a quiet place to go practice their instrument…the woodshed. Back before there was a “University of the Arts” with a Master’s Degree in Jazz Performance available, musicians learned jazz by listening, imitating and spending a lot of time in the woodshed honing their art.


South Jersey Music Education Partnership (SJMEP), an all-volunteer non-profit organization, has just been granted its 501{c}3 status. To date, all funding for scholarships has come from private donations, on-line fundraising efforts (through Indiegogo), performance fees and “percentage of sales” events with local restaurants. As the mission expands, these fundraising efforts will continue with an eye to two major events in 2015, a Spring music festival highlighting performances by student musicians and their professional musician mentors and the Second Annual Pinelands Jazz Festival in August 2015. Additionally, we are seeking support through provision of a permanent home as well as seeking supplemental operating funds through grants designed to support student education, the arts, and extracurricular activities.

For more information on South Jersey Music Education Partnership (SJMEP) like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SJMEP or visit http://SJMEP.org and http://www.pinelandsjazz.com.