I'm happy to say that the work that I've been doing with the little first-grade tikes at my children's public school has been endorsed by the city where I live.
The Pasadena Arts Commission awarded me a grant, so that I'll no longer be teaching as an unpaid volunteer. They liked the idea that I could build a curriculum for use in other Pasadena public schools. (Who will pay for teachers to teach in those other schools is a question for another day!) But, perhaps if I can show that this kind of a program is good for kids, good for the school, good for community building, etc., then parents will demand it, politicians will listen....
Call me an idealist!
Applying for a grant, even a small one that would only pay a very modest stipend for one person, was as vexing and complex as applying to college. I had to write eight essays, submit photos and a DVD, get a letter of recommendation from the school's principal, etc. A parent helped me greatly by taking all I'd written and translating it into "Grantese," which is its own special language.
My chances were slim. They'd never awarded this grant to an individual; the grants have always gone to organizations like the city's symphony, conservatory, etc. But apparently the commissioners understood what I was trying to do: lay a foundation in children for musical skill building. And a lot more than music stands on that foundation. In fact, I came across a list I'd written in college while taking one of the most valuable courses I've ever had: "A Philosophy of Music Education" at Northwestern University with Bennett Reimer. I think we musicians intuitively understand why music education is important. But we have a duty, I believe, to convince others.
I will print the list here, just in case you ever need to enumerate "justifications" for the music program at your school:
A LIST OF REASONS TO INCLUDE MUSIC IN THE SCHOOLS
1. Educates the creative part of the brain
2. Teaches you to express yourself
3. Parental request
4. Basic art form
5. Entertainment (fun)
6. Keeps kids off the street
7. Enhances discipline
8. Group cooperation
9. Puts you in touch with your environment
10. Expands horizons
11. Appreciation of different cultures
12. School pride
13. Nurtures potential talent
14. Civilizes children
15. Expression using no words
16. Carries traditions and history
18. Makes people more outgoing, confident; improves self-esteem
19. Teaches structure – the symbols, the rehearsals
20. A place to channel energy
25. Develops independent thinking
26. Supports athletics
27. Teaches responsibility
29. Learn teaching skills
31. Helps students improve in other areas: language, math, maps
32. Entertainment for the community
33. Extracurricular activity
34. Sense of accomplishment – rewarding
35. Non-selective; musical ability crosses all races, economic groups, etc.
36. An easy A!
Okay, maybe that last one is a stretch....
Care to add to this list?
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