The Hartford Police Athletic League would like to welcome the Charter Oak Cultural Center, in conjunction with The Common Sense Fund, and Spread Music Now all make up what is known as the Music Matters Program                  

The Charter Oak Cultural Center, housed in Connecticut's oldest synagogue building, is a non-profit, multi-cultural arts center committed to preserving the Jewish Heritage of our building, giving access to the arts to all people and doing the work of social justice. Charter Oak has long been an arts showcase for the region's ethnically and culturally diverse communities. Our mission is to provide access to the arts for all.

The Common Sense Fund promotes action both on the environment and in the arts that is practical, creative, and addresses social needs.

SpreadMusicNow is committed to filling this gapby funding music programs that foster continual learningand that put students on a clear path to college career and life success. 

Why Music Matters


Harmonizing and empowering communities through music.


To foster positive development of young musicians through emphasis on academic achievement, understanding community and developing positive life skills and exemplary behavior through music.


Create a place of safety, fun, high aspiration and joy

Develop positive life skills

Embrace diversity

Treat every child with dignity and respect

Build academic success

Show how good choices lead to success

Create an atmosphere of spontaneity and flexibility

Demonstrate consistency in all things

Build every child’s confidence

Teach passion first, precision later

Model good leadership

Encourage parent participation and advocacy

Serve the community through music

 What is Music Matters?

The Music Matters Youth Music program is a free after school, music education program based at 85 Edwards Street, the Police Athletic League Headquarters in Hartford.  Twenty-five students in the 4th and 5th grade have been chosen to participate and everything including the instrument is free.  Charter Oak Cultural Center is running the program along with its partners – Christ Church Cathedral Episcopal, and SpreadMusicNow.  Music Matters is based on an arts curriculum that creates a caring, cooperative, and fun community.  This program embraces these core values: respect, responsibility, positive communication, and support.

 Music Matters Offers:  

    • Private and ensemble instruction on a woodwind or brass instrument
    • Rhythm bucket drumming classes, music theory instruction, and music appreciation.
    • Professional music teaching artists for private and ensemble instruction
    • Free instruments (checked out to each student) for use in the program
    • 8 hours of music instruction per week after school
    • Life skills training
    • Mentors and caring adults
    • Performance opportunities and community field trips
    • A loving, caring environment
    • A snack served after school Monday through Thursday
    • Family dinners and concerts


Meet the Team

Susan Mazer, Director of Music Programs, Charter Oak Cultural Center    860-310-2590

Guitarist, music educator, and arts advocate, Susan Mazer, has a Masters in Music Education from Boston University and has been teaching for thirty years.  She has written twelve instructional books through Alfred Publishing and continues to perform with a blues/pop group Keith and Mazer Trio.  Susan believes that every child should have access to the finest music education and is thrilled to bring this program to the Hartford Pubic School students.

Marvin McNeill, Music Matters – Music Director, Music Matters

Marvin McNeill currently served for years as the Assistant Director of Athletic Bands at the University of Connecticut.  He also served as Director of the Funky Dawgz Brass Band that currently runs a community brass band at Charter Oak Cultural Center. Prior to his appointment at UCONN, he served as the Director of Bands at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT.  Marvin holds a B.S. in Music Education from Virginia Polytechnic State University, a Master of Music degree from the University of Connecticut and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University. Marvin performs widely in concert, commercial, salsa, and jazz venues throughout the Northeast.

Mike Marsters, Music Teacher, Music Matters

As a music student at UConn, Mike aims to inspire youth with educational tools and interactive learning through the arts. With a diverse musical background Mike has had the opportunity to play with artists from around the world and enjoys giving back to the local communities, traveling, and getting to meet new people every day!  He is also a founding member of the Nationally known Funky Dawgz Brass Band

Susan Hanjian, Music Teacher, Music Matters

Susan Hanjian has been a leading music educator in the Hartford Schools for over 25 years.   She is currently the instrumental music teacher at Renzulli Talented and Gifted Academy.  Susan has worked with the Rawson music department in the past and will continue to provide private music instruction for the Music Matters Program.  

Natalie Griffin – Music Matters Teacher – 860-202-2459

Natalie Griffin is a clarinetist with an undergraduate degree in music education from Ithaca College.   She received her master’s degree in special education from the University of Saint Joseph and currently works as a special education teacher for Hartford Public Schools.   She performs regularly with Capitol Winds at the University of Hartford and enjoys playing piano in her spare time.  She absolutely loves working with beginning band students and is excited for an excellent year of music-making!

Connor Sullivan - Music Matters Teacher – Music Matters Teacher

Connor Sullivan is a Music education certification student at Central Connecticut State University. He graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music playing saxophone in 2014. This is Connor’s second year teaching woodwinds for the Music Matters program and is excited for to continue to spread instrumental music to the students of Hartford.