EducationWatch: The Day The Music Died

Pennsylvania-based school district turns the music off in recognition of its importance to everyday life

GRAMMY.com
Laurel Fishman

On March 31 students, teachers and staff representing the Twin Valley School District in Berks County, Penn., turned off all music sources — including MP3 players, television and clock radios — to fully recognize music's fundamental importance in daily life. Titled The Day the Music Died, the concept expanded into the local community — with stores turning off their music for the day — and other parts of eastern Pennsylvania. Music students focused on writing pro-music education essays and engaging in discussions about how they experienced life without music. Participants wore bracelets emblazoned "Life is music — music is life," as well as student-made T-shirts and buttons to help spread the message.

In related Pennsylvania news, Maria Sciorillo, who was named Miss Philadelphia 2011 in March, prepared to compete for her crown by focusing her community service efforts on music education. A singer, she aligned herself with the VH1 Save The Music Foundation and pledged to work with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to restore music education in local schools. "There have been so many cutbacks to music programs [especially in Philadelphia] even though music education is so important because it keeps kids in school," Sciorillo said in an interview with PhillyBurbs.com. "Music works hand in hand with education."

From June 2–9, the Minneapolis Fire Department collected new and used instruments for distribution to low-income public school students, with additional donations collected at the Moody Blues' June 9 concert at the Orpheum Theatre. The Minneapolis stop was hosted in conjunction with a 12-city tour during which the Moody Blues played concerts and partnered with Ear Candy Charity for instrument drives in each city.

The Music for Minors Foundation was this year's beneficiary of funds raised by the Bonita Blues Charitable Foundation's annual blues festival in southwest Florida in March. Artists performing at the festival included blues artists the Josh Garrett Band, Joanne Shaw Taylor and Victor Wainright, among others. Based in Bonita Springs, Fla., the foundation provides instruments to students through a qualifying process that includes an audition, written essay and achieving three levels of certification.

This spring Girl Scouts Rock! Powered by Roland reached thousands of girl scouts aged 8–14 and their parents, spreading the message of a "Better Life with Music" in major U.S. cities. A hands-on curriculum, co-developed by Roland and Girl Scouts of the USA, generated enthusiasm for music making and music education through exciting opportunities to play music. The curriculum included activities utilizing a collection of Roland's products, an interactive instrument display and karaoke station. Daisy Rock Guitars provided instruments specifically designed for girls, featuring a female-friendly "slim and narrow" neck profile and a lightweight body. Roland also conducted "Better Life with Music" sessions for parents and girl scout troop leaders that covered current research and information about the benefits of music education.

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's When I Play Music campaign came to a completion earlier this month after an 11-week run. The campaign focused on supporting educational outreach programs and symphony initiatives, and on raising awareness of the importance of music-rich educational experiences for students. Primarily driven by social media, the program provided a mechanism to donate in amounts as modest as $5. Each year, ASO provides nearly 30,000 hours of music instruction and reaches more than 45,000 students and music educators in 28 Georgia counties.

On the community action front, the loss of 45 music educators' jobs in the San Diego Unified School District's Visual and Performing Arts department was vigorously protested on March 1 during a well-attended spring rally. Featuring local Marshall Middle School band students playing jazz standards outside the district's board meeting, the rally was organized by Ann Marie Haney, co-chair of Community Council for Music in the Schools, a San Diego State University-affiliated organization supporting music education in public schools. At the board meeting, several dozen students, parents and teachers defended the need for school music programs.

On June 30 Guitar Center's Music & Arts division completed the launch of Pass The Music On in the greater Washington, D.C., and Baltimore metropolitan areas. Founded by Music & Arts and YesKidzCan! in support of Music 4 More and sponsored by Yamaha Corporation of America, Pass The Music On encouraged local musicians and students to donate a musical instrument for Music & Arts to repair and redistribute to local area schools in need, and/or make an online donation, with 100 percent of contributions going to local school music programs.

(Laurel Fishman is a writer and editor specializing in entertainment media. She reports regularly for GRAMMY.com, and she is an advocate for the benefits of music making, music listening, music education, music therapy and music-and-the-brain research.)

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