Count Basie Center selected as lead partner for New Jersey Poetry Out Loud


(OCT 12, 2021) The Count Basie Center for the Arts today announced it has been selected as the lead partner for New Jersey Poetry Out Loud (NJPOL), the statewide high school recitation program which provides students with a platform to showcase and share their interpretation of poetry.

In partnership with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Basie Center will lead NJPOL, which is entering its 17th year as a national leader in Poetry Out Loud programming. As the lead partner, the Basie Center will oversee all facets of NJPOL: recruiting schools and community centers throughout the state; expanding arts education opportunities for students; providing professional development for participating educators; and presenting regional competitions and the culminating state competition. A network of regional partners supports these efforts, organizing the Garden State’s 21 counties by geographic region, each established in response to a growing participation base.NJPOL

“As a longtime NJPOL regional partner, Count Basie Center for the Arts understands the impact of the Poetry Out Loud program on students and educators alike,” said Erik Stratton, NJ Poetry Out Loud State Coordinator. “The Basie’s commitment to arts education and their ongoing support of arts recovery efforts will help relaunch NJPOL – returning our programming from virtual classrooms and pre-recorded online competitions to the electrifying recitations held on stages and in classrooms across the state. Thanks to the commitment of the State Arts Council and all the NJPOL partners, New Jersey consistently sees some of the best participation for the program nationally, with attendance for 2020 being the 2nd highest nationally. We can’t wait to see how many more will return to the program or discover Poetry Out Loud for the first time this year.”

“The Basie Center has enjoyed the privilege of hosting the Region 3 NJPOL finals over the past five years,” said Samantha Giustiniani, Senior Director of Education & Outreach at the Count Basie Center for the Arts. “Moving into this new role as the statewide co-sponsor with the New Jersey Council on the Arts allows us to deepen our commitment to arts education and the national Poetry Out Loud program. We recognize the impact NJPOL has on students and are honored to help carry this important work forward.”

NJPOL is open to all New Jersey public, private and parochial high schools, home school associations, libraries, and other non-school community organizations. Groups are encouraged to establish their own competitions to identify one participant to represent them in the regionals. Each regional competition produces two winners, who go on to statewide finals. From there, each state will send one student to the national Poetry Out Loud finals in Washington, D.C. next April.

“The State Arts Council is extremely proud to support Poetry Out Loud because of the unique opportunity it provides young people,” said Samantha Clarke, Program Officer for the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. “POL offers a chance for students to dive deeply into poetry, exploring how different viewpoints, time periods, and experiences contributed to the art form. Through POL, students experience the power of recitation and performance, developing presentation skills and strengthening the social emotional competencies of self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness. Throughout the program, participants are positively situated to connect with and learn from other students from across the country, providing them a network of individuals connected by a shared experience.”

Groups interested in learning more about NJPOL and the Poetry Out Loud competition should visit, where they may also register to participate in this year’s competition. Deadline for registrations is November 19, and all groups have until January 21, 2022 to present their individual winners.


The Count Basie Center for the Arts is New Jersey’s premier center for the cultural arts, dedicated to fostering powerful, inclusive artistic experiences and creative exchange of ideas. The Basie mission is to inspire, educate and entertain through its distinct and engaging cultural and artistic offerings that reflect the diversity of the region. As a nonprofit organization, the Basie is committed to enriching the community’s quality of life by generating opportunities for participation in the arts, partnering with schools, collaborating with other mission-based organizations and driving regional economic prosperity. To learn more about the Count Basie Center for the Arts, visit


The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, created in 1966, is a division of the N.J. Department of State. The Council was established to encourage and foster public interest in the arts; enlarge public and private resources devoted to the arts; promote freedom of expression in the arts; and facilitate the inclusion of art in every public building in New Jersey. The Council receives direct appropriations from the State of New Jersey through a dedicated, renewable Hotel/Motel Occupancy Fee, as well as competitive grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. To learn more about the Council, please visit


New Jersey Poetry Out Loud is a project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, in collaboration with Count Basie Center for the Arts and a growing list of local partners. Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, The Poetry Foundation, and the state arts agencies of the United States.

This national program encourages high school students across the country to learn about great works of classic and contemporary poetry through memorization and recitation. The program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. Not only do participants share their interpretation and delivery of poetry, but they also vie for awards and scholarships totaling $50,000.

Since 2005, Poetry Out Loud has grown to reach more than 3 million students and 50,000 teachers from 10,000 schools in every state, Washington, DC, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.