At too many schools across the country, the only sound coming from music and band rooms is silence. That’s because, in an era of belt tightening, music programs are often the first to be squeezed out of the curriculum.
The VH1 Save The Music Foundation is putting instruments back in the hands of elementary and middle school students. Since its founding in 1997, it has provided $49.5 million in new musical instruments to 1,850 public schools in 192 districts coast to coast, benefiting 2.1 million children. This past year, it gave almost $1.7 million worth of instruments to 56 schools in 23 communities.
“This is my tenth year of having a guitar group at PS/IS 180 in Harlem playing guitars donated by the VH1 Save The Music Foundation,” said David Haiman. “It’s always heartening for me to see the more experienced students teaching the beginners and ‘catching them up.’ One of my students, a fifth grader named Ayleen, used to be very shy. But this year she has blossomed, showing her quiet confidence as she builds on her guitar experience from last year. She is especially patient and encouraging when helping beginning students.”
There are countless other stories like these from students and teachers touched by VH1 Save The Music. Many are from West Virginia, where the foundation launched its first state-wide initiative in 2009. Working with government officials and local donors, the initiative is seeking to restore school music programs in each of West Virginia’s 55 counties. So far, it has had a profound impact, reviving programs in 35 schools. Recently, VH1 Save The Music and its partners NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) and NAfME (National Association for Music Educators) presented The SupportMusic Award to Senator Jay Rockefeller, Senator Joe Manchin and Randall Reid-Smith, Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, for their leadership in this effort.
“When I grow up I want to be a doctor…I want to go to West Virginia University and play in the marching band!”
Zac, 6th Grade, Alto Sax
The foundation is also expanding its efforts by collaborating with Microsoft’s Shape the Future project. With celebrity spokesperson/musician Gavin DeGraw, the partnership is working to bring technology and music access to schools nationwide.
VH1 Save The Music works deeply at the local level, extending its reach beyond students and teachers and to include local school boards. Linda Mouradian, the chairwoman of Elementary Instrumental Music of the Los Angeles Unified School District, explains, “Building on the original grant provided by the VH1 Save The Music Foundation and some instruments provided by the school district, San Fernando budgeted to purchase more instruments so that many students can have the opportunity to participate in the program.”
She adds, “When students realize they have been chosen to participate, the light in their eyes could illuminate Los Angeles.”
“I practice every day for 2½ hours…My mom encourages me to practice and I know that if I play an instrument well, I can get a scholarship to college.”
Erick, 7th Grade, Trumpet