Districts with high percentages of low-income students are finding ways to fund music education, District Administration reports, noting that of the 623 districts that received the “Best Communities for Music Education” award, 180 have 50% of students qualifying for free- or reduced-price lunch.
In some districts, educators use the award to urge voters to pass bonds for music education and encourage school boards to fund the programs. In Juneau, Alaska, one such program called Juneau Alaska Music Matters provides violin instruction to kindergartners and 1st-graders.
Similarly, at Roosevelt Elementary School in San Gabriel United School District in California, every student is enrolled in the Music Immersion Experience program, which teaches them to play violin starting in 1st grade. Students can switch to a different in 4th grade.
Music education can be a costly endeavor for districts — especially band, where expensive instruments are required supplies. For districts that find ways to fund it, the cost may pay off in the long run. According to an analysis of research by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, schools that offer music programs have a 90.2% graduation rate and a 93.3% attendance rate. Those numbers compare to a graduation rate of 72.9% and 84.9% attendance rate in schools that don’t offer music.
Salt Lake City School District is among districts keeping music and arts programs strong despite the pressure of high-stakes testing accountability. Recently, the district developed a five-year plan to implement an orchestra by introducing students to band in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades.
The New England Board of Higher Education outlines six benefits of music education, including enhancing both vocabulary and reading comprehension. Evidence suggests musical ability and language comprehension are controlled by the same part of the brain. The board also suggests music education improves memory, strengthens hand-eye coordination, improves study habits and fosters teamwork.