Voters in Arlington, Texas overwhelmingly supported a $663 million bond package last week for the Arlington Independent School District. Arlington ISD and Arlington First, a political action committee formed to support the bond issue, utilized an active social media campaign and important endorsements from community business leaders to pass the largest school bond in Tarrant County history. Fine arts were an important part of the bond package, which supported the construction of a 2,500 seat fine arts center, the purchase of instruments, uniforms and equipment to increase access to performing arts programs and several other fine arts initiatives. The district, which largely serves Hispanic and African-American communities, boasts a vibrant fine arts program, serving close to two thirds of the 64,000 students in the district. Congratulations to Arlington ISD!
For school districts that lack adequate funding for arts education, enrichment programs provided by local nonprofit organizations have become more popular. Los Angeles County is a prime example where local nonprofits have stepped up to provide high quality music instruction for underserved students. Education Through Music is an enrichment program originally founded in New York in 1991 that partners with schools to provide all students with music instruction, from elementary through high school. In 2006, Victoria Young Lanier created a Los Angeles affiliate of Education Through Music to enhance student academic performance and creative development among disadvantaged schools throughout Los Angeles. Victoria and Program Director Ryan Rowles recently sat down with a local radio station to discuss the program and its vast impact in LA. You can listen to the audio below, which features Education Through Music's recent "Music Unites the World Festival." At the Festival, underserved students had the opportunity to rehearse and perform "Let it Go" from Disney's Frozen with composer Christophe Beck, arranger Tim Davies and prominent vocal coach Evelyn Halus.
While we spend a lot of time advocating solely for the arts or music, we often must collaborate for our message to be impactful. Educator Stacey Boyd advocates in this US News and World Report OpEd for all extracurriculars, including music. She advocates for music, foreign language and physical education, which are all integral in a well-rounded education. "Concentration, strong recall skills, evolved communication skills, and being a good team player are just a few of the benefits research shows music, foreign language and physical education have on a developing mind. To me, that list reads as one I might put together for a model employee," says Boyd.
Schools across the country competed in Yamaha's Quest for Music Education Contest late last year, which awarded $100,000 in Yamaha instruments to elementary, middle and high schools, as well as colleges. The contest included a variety of online quests throughout the Yamaha website, including Yamaha Artists, Yamaha Internships and music advocacy. Bands of America Grand National Finalist Round Rock H.S. from Texas was awarded 2nd place in the high school division, receiving $10,000 in Yamaha instruments. “We have a number of needs for instruments, so any chance to win some, especially from Yamaha, was a real motivator for us," said Round Rock director David Mobley. "We have selected a french horn and an oboe, both of which we had to borrow from other schools." You can view the complete list of winners here.
If you are not familiar with MFA leadership faculty member and "Be Part of the Band" creator Scott Lang, I encourage you to sign up for his newsletter now! Every week, Scott shares creative tips and tricks for students and educators to improve your ensemble. Last week, Scott shared his "Happy File" for Teacher Appreciation Week. Scott's "Happy File" includes gifts from students he has received throughout the years in addition to photos, accolades, mementos, etc. He also encourages all of his students to make their own "Happy File" as well. Whether you need inspiration or are having a particularly tough day, the "Happy File" is a great reminder of great impact educators and musicians have. Be sure to check out Scott's video about the "Happy File" below, which was filmed by his sons!