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Music Can Teach

Public school funding for music programs have been gettting cut over the past couple of years at the federal and state level — to some it seems obvious that the arts would be a logical department to get cut from public education when funding gets low. Hey, kids can make art and music anywhere. It seems this much is true. But, there is this important shift in education through music that is happening. I am sitting here at the “Free Culture; Phase 2” conference and most of the people here work with youth on projects that they find most relevant to youth and so a lot of these people have gravitated to getting kids to make music, radio, and videos. They are working in the non-profit sector and these nonprofits get funded by foundations. As public money gets spent less on music education, more foundation and bake sale money goes into educating kids to be active in making things that matter to them, capturing kid energy in ways that public schools are unable to do without the resources. This is a general trend in music education as recording gets cheaper and distribution gets cheaper and foundations agree that music is a good, cheap hanging strap. So, if public schools aren’t reaching out to kids through music and arts, then internet and technology, interests in bought-off mainstream radio, the influence of CD-R’s, young teachers with art skills and their supportive foundations are fulfilling that role — people are learning about music and society anyway and putting it on the air in a way that feedbacks on culture. Ultimately, music and art scales big with lots of young people, gets them motivated and participating in the larger, social, and political scene through art, active filesharing, distribution and technology. Given that, the many lower-income kids who don’t have access to computers and recording at home/community centers need school programs that resonate with them too because schools are way, way more ubiquitous than foundation music classes.

I found this interesting and somewhat ironic line in an article about music funding: California schools spent most of the 1990s flush with cash, and spending increased. But the dot-com crash about five years ago changed how much money the state was willing to spend on education, said David Kaun, professor of economics at UC Santa Cruz.”

Many parents who live in areas with less resources, who are working more, have less time to do fundraising drives are in need of resources to teach their kids through and about music. A mother wrote to ask if we could help out her son’s music program a bit. We can accept online donations here (donations will be donated to the school). She wrote: “My son is in the high school band at Mt. Pleasant High School in Mt. Pleasant North Carolina. As you are aware, schools are cutting music funding. Our school gets no money from our school system, making it very hard to continue the program. Our band is one of the top performing bands in our area, however we have resorted to using duct tape and tie straps to hold instruments together. Our band director is an incredible teacher, mentor, and friend to our students. He runs a top-notch program on a very small budget set by our band boosters. Our students pay a large fee to participate in band, and because of that we loose many great musicians due to financial difficulties. We are in need of having instruments repaired, new instruments, and band uniforms. Any assistance that you could give would be appreciated.” A few hundred bucks could help them get some new repairs and spread engaging curriculum with music and culture.

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