Why Did the Quest Foundation Award the Redlands Symphony a $100K Challenge Grant?

Faced with the ominous specter of standardized testing and shrinking budgets, it's no secret that schools continue to cut funding for music education, leaving private organizations to pick up the slack.

But when a private organization cuts a check to remedy a funding gap, the problem isn't always necessarily solved. After all, if the mere existence of money solved our education problems, we probably wouldn't even be having this conversation.

While lack of funding is certainly a problem for music educators, the other half of the equation must be addressed — the quality of the programs the private organization chooses to fund. It's simple logic, of course. If the music program in question doesn't deliver a compelling bang for the buck, the foundation will likely spend its money elsewhere. And if no other music education nonprofits pick up the slack, then there is a potential danger that music education will only exist for affluent children, as many naysayers argue.

Fortunately, we haven't reached this dire predicament just yet, thanks in no small part to organizations like California's Redlands Symphony. It recently received a $100,000 challenge matching grant from the Quest Foundation to help it sustain its music education programs for young people. The Symphony will receive one dollar from Quest for every two dollars it raises through August 4, 2015. At least $200,000 must be raised by the symphony to claim the full $100,000 match.

Though the press release doesn't mention it, Quest cut the check thanks to the strength of the Symphony's music education program, called OrKIDstra. Established in 1998, the program is designed to "increase elementary school students' abilities to perceive, comprehend, and appreciate all styles of music, including symphonic music."

OrKIDstra's goal is nothing less than to reach every fourth- and fifth-grade student in the Redlands school district, as well as some other additional local districts and private schools. The program, which is free to students, is available to a total of over 6,000 kids. And as the site notes, "OrKIDstra provides the only comprehensive and interactive music education experiences they will ever receive."

As a side note, we'd also like encourage music nonprofits to reexamine their fundraising approaches from a conceptual perspective. No one disagrees that music education benefits children. But these days, grant writers and program directors need to further buttress their arguments. For example, compelling research from Northwestern University suggests that music education can close the achievement gap between poor and affluent students.

And while you're at it, click here for IP analysis on major funders in the music field.