As a new year is upon us, we take a moment to reflect on how this 2024 will build upon last year. What did we learn? What will we keep; what will we change? For “progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything,” said Martin Luther King, Jr.
Life demands that we confront the mirror before which we stand – as an individual, and as a collective. When we look at the direct impact that ETM-LA has made on local school communities this past year, we witness a vibrant phase of growth. ETM-LA:
- Provided quality weekly, yearlong sequential music education for 18,500 students across 42 under-resourced schools,
- Successfully transitioned three (3) music teachers from ETM-LA to full-time public school positions at partner districts,
- Grew our internship program over 200%, and
- Hosted over 100 hours of professional development for music teachers and the community.
On a broader collective scale, ETM-LA’s in demand resources, curriculum materials, and workshops spanned from Los Angeles County to across the state and the nation. ETM-LA offered guidance and innovative strategies for school leaders and decision makers on building comprehensive music programs; three schools graduated last spring to become fully sustainable. And last year, we witnessed our intensive advocacy for music as a core subject reach fever pitch across the music education ecosystem.
Change Starts Small
Change often begins imperceptibly.
Consider a butterfly, which starts out as a tiny egg before moving to its next stage of a caterpillar. In this active developmental stage, the caterpillar’s sole role is to eat and grow, with some species growing to a hundred times larger in size. The third stage of metamorphosis as a pupa or chrysalis is one of focusing inward; not moving, their stored energy is used to transform them at the cellular level. In the final stage, transformation to a butterfly enables them to be independent and productive, with some even traveling thousands of miles in their lifecycle.
Similarly, a child must be given nurturing and optimal conditions from the earliest onset and throughout each developmental stage in order to mature and reach key milestones and their fullest potential. In the first few years of life, more than 1 million new neural connections in the brain are formed every second (Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, 2007). The brain keeps growing to about 80% of adult size by age 3 and 90% – nearly full grown – by age 5 (First Things First).
Music plays a critical part of their holistic development. Take music and the arts away from their well-rounded education, and students can quickly fall behind (Laura Jimenez and Scott Sargrad, Center for American Progress, 2018). Research finds that music as part of the core curriculum in school makes a deep impact on students’ motivation for learning (Evaluation Specialists, 2021).
While students are developing inside and out (inward and outward growth), schools may not always see the blossomed fruits of each child’s full potential reached later in life. Elementary and middle school teachers bear witness to the wonderful transformation occurring at this budding stage of life; music provides children with self-confidence, engagement, focus, connection to peers, and other key benefits.
Transformation Takes Time
On a community level, schools play an intrinsic role in providing safe, joyful, creative, and inclusive environments which embrace all kinds of student learners (Howard Gardner):
- verbal / linguistic
- visual / spatial
- mathematical / logical
- musical / rhythmic
- bodily / kinesthetic
In California, Proposition 28’s recent passage means dedicated dollars for music and arts programs in public schools. This is good news. However, the bad news is that in the nearly five decades it has taken the state to arrive at a funding resolution, arts teachers have left; there exists a lack of human capital and other resources (edsource.org).
In Los Angeles County alone, roughly 75% of elementary and middle schools do not have the equivalent of a full-time music teacher (LA Arts Collective). Fragmentation of music/arts programming exists across school districts who have tried to piece back together their programs.
ETM-LA not only provides qualified and dedicated music teachers, curriculum, instruments, and training, we provide strategic guidance for schools and districts on implementing comprehensive, sequential music education programs which meet the needs and vision of each community. We help each partner take actionable steps to transform their STEAM curriculum and music/arts culture; to foster a community that values music as a core subject reaching every student with professional development for principals and teachers, workshops for parents, and student performances for the community. We help move them along through each developmental stage towards graduating from our model – teaching schools how to “teach music.”
Transformation can only happen with intention.
The length of time needed to progress going from limited (or no) music education to building an established school-wide, sustaining program for all students varies from school to school. But to do so, it requires intention and time. Transformation of a school culture demands care, coordination, and collaborative planning among school, district, and community members.
Over time, schools increase their ownership and oversight of their music program until they are ready to directly hire the music teacher as a key faculty member. Helping our partners reach this goal enables ETM-LA to further our reach to service more communities.
What Remains Constant
What remains immutable is ETM-LA’s resolve to ensure all children have music as part of their school curriculum. Music education for every child is a non-negotiable right.
ETM-LA remains unwavering in our service of transforming how we educate, engage, and inspire. We know this mission involves each one of us in order to make a positive impact – as an individual, and as a collective. We know this work requires constant nurture, and we are grateful for each and every person who plays an integral role and comes alongside us.
We know that together, change and progress are possible.
Education Through Music-Los Angeles
January 29, 2024
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Education Through Music-Los Angeles is an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to provide and promote music in under-resourced schools as part of the core curriculum for every child in order to enhance students’ academic achievement, creativity, and overall development.
For more information: www.etmla.org