Music in schools gets an assist from Grammy organization

Nevaeh Wright, front center, practices the violin along with her classmates at Mitchell Elementary School, in Philadelphia, Oct. 16, 2017.

The Grammy Music Education Coalition has launched a fund-raising initiative aimed at benefiting music programs in the school districts of  Philadelphia, New York City, and Nashville.

Locally, the effort provides an assist to the School District of Philadelphia’s efforts to cover expense for items like musical instruments and recording equipment. GMEC hopes to raise $5 million over three years for Philadelphia, with that money going toward both the district as well as programs run by partner education and outreach organizations, said GMEC executive director Lee Whitmore.

Philadelphia’s wish list of items to enhance music programs could cost up to $60 million, said Frank Machos, executive director of the School District’s Office of the Arts and Academic Enrichment. Although no specific fund-raising goal has been set, Machos says half of the funding could come through philanthropy, with the other half covered by the School District and state sources.

“The two goals of the effort are for every elementary school student K-5 to have music education, and for 6-12 [graders] to have a significant increase in participation,” said Machos. After three years, the hope is to have “a framework in place to sustain our programs and an opportunity to reset music education in the city.”

The money raised would not be used to hire full-time music instructors in the schools, Machos said, but to pay for – in addition to musical instruments and recording equipment – curriculum development and professional-development opportunities for teachers, and to fund studies to help determine how to “engage high school students in culturally relevant” programs.

In addition to its fund-raising help, GMEC is developing music-lesson materials and commissioning an online professional development course for teachers to be made available free nationwide.

The Grammy Music Education Coalition was founded in part by the Recording Academy – formerly known as the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences – but is now its own separate nonprofit collective of more than 30 groups. Whitmore said the organization would focus on Title 1 school districts (those with large low-income student populations) and expects one next step to be an expansion beyond Philadelphia, New York City, and Nashville.