By Krystal Cohen (Princeton University, ’21)
On the third floor of a swanky Burbank office building, tucked away in a corner on the right, you’ll find Education Through Music-Los Angeles. With a small team of 14 musicians, songwriters, and composers-turn-educators, they lead the charge in expanding access to music education in the broader Los Angeles area. They currently serve 17,500 students across six school districts, dedicated to their mission of partnering with inner-city schools to provide music as a core subject for all children. But their mission is more than a statement. Five days in their office showed me that their mission was a lifestyle, embodied in everything they did from teaching music classes to starting impromptu office jam sessions to performing their own shows on the weekend. Music education made them, inspired them, and paved the path to where they are today, and their commitment to offering the same opportunity to the next generation — the absolute joy their work brought them— was infectious.
Throughout the week, I helped with community outreach efforts for ETM-LA’s 10th Annual Music Unites The World Festival, I wrote teacher spotlights, and I became a master at organizing ukuleles. I witnessed 30 music teachers come together for two days of growth and reflection during Winter Training. I visited the infamous Porto’s Bakery and finally tried In-N-Out (I give it a solid B+). I acted like a kindergartner for a teacher demo lesson (and had way too much fun pretending to be a pencil) and I participated in a surprisingly competitive game of Heads Up. I worked closely with amazing people like Victoria Lanier, the executive director of ETM-LA (and a Princeton alum!), who radiated an unwavering sense of thoughtfulness and care in all her interactions. And throughout everything, I learned an immeasurable amount, not just about education or the nonprofit sector, but about myself and my own values as I pave the way toward my career.
To everyone at Education Through Music-Los Angeles, thank you for offering me a glimpse into your world, a world full of music, laughter, intentionality and growth. You gave me a preview of what my life could be after Princeton, a life dedicated to bridging the opportunity gap in education with a team of people just as passionate as I am, and I can’t help but count down the days until graduation.