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Making Music in MBUSD for over Twenty-Five Years

By December 10, 2019December 12th, 2019eNews

MBEF began supporting music in our schools in 1992. When the recession hit in 2008, funding for music education throughout California’s public schools was cut dramatically and MBEF funding increased to fill the gap. Within a year, legislators in Sacramento diverted $100 million slated for music and art programs, forcing half of California’s public schools to eliminate their music programs and end up last in the nation in the ratio of music teachers to students.

Here in Manhattan Beach, music in our classrooms continues because of funding from our community through MBEF. MBUSD is now one of only a few dozen districts where every elementary student receives standards-based music instruction, including instrumental music, from certificated teachers beginning in first grade. The comprehensive program is the foundation for our students to move on to our award-winning middle and high school programs.

The musical path of a Manhattan Beach student begins in first grade with general music instruction for two years. In third grade, every student participates in a music wheel, alternating between instruction in strings, wind instruments and choir during the year. By fourth grade, students are equipped to choose their path for the remainder of their years in elementary school. “The philosophy of the elementary program is to establish a healthy practice routine, to enjoy music expression together, and to learn how to read music,” says Katie Cavallaro, strings music teacher to all five elementary schools. Some students elect to participate in after-school honors programs as well.

In the middle school, students that choose to continue their music journey have the opportunity to deepen their skills every day over the next three years with instrumental and choral options being offered as a year-long elective. There are intermediate and advanced courses, as well as an exploratory wheel course, that directly benefit over 450 students at Manhattan Beach Middle School.

By the time students get to high school, they are well trained in their musical discipline and ready to advance to the next level. Mira Costa’s award-winning music program offers many options from choir, to orchestra, concert band, marching band, and music theory. Director of Choirs Michael Hayden, who was previously a music professor at Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne and Butler, appreciates the districtwide support of arts education and pushes the high school program to follow a collegiate model. He suggests encouraging students at a young age to find out where his or her desires and heart lie, and help them discovering their interests. “To help a child discover a love of music is one of the greatest gifts we can give,” shares Hayden, “and the fact we introduce it in elementary school is extraordinary.”

There are countless studies that credit quality music instruction in schools with incredible benefits that help students flourish. Music impacts critical-thinking, language development and time-management, ultimately boosting overall academic performance. It builds self-esteem, fosters collaboration, and offers a means of emotional and creative expression. A 2010 Northwestern University study even suggests that regularly playing an instrument can change the shape and power of the brain, improving cognitive skills and increasing IQ by an average of seven points.

Here is a comprehensive list of benefits of music education and supporting articles, in no particular order:

  1. Significant Predictor of Higher IQ In Early Adulthood
  2. Protective Against Dementia
  3. Improves Emotional Outlook
  4. Increases GPA
  5. Enhances Social Skills
  6. Develops Superior Reading
  7. Sharpens Cognitive Function
  8. Linked to Great Likelihood of Graduation
  9. Promotes Motor Task Competency
  10. Flourishes Artistic and Personal Expression

Music continues to be a priority of our parents and educators – in MBEF’s most recent survey in November, both groups included it as one of the five programs funded by MBEF that is most beneficial to students. As District costs rise faster than state funding for education grows, donations to MBEF remain critical to ensure that the program can continue to thrive. Through parent and community support, MBEF is able to grant $500,000 to the districtwide music program for the 2019/20 school year, representing 48% of the MBUSD budget for music. This has grown over the years ($300,000 in 2012) and the program still requires additional support to ensure it thrives. The additional District support for the remaining 52% of the program to help cover the costs of the educators, and support through the MBX Booster Clubs for concert costs, coaching fees and musical scores, for example, are also essential.

It is this partnership, and the support from our community, that helps ensure the music program remains not only viable, but one of the best in the country.

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