The Music Empowers Foundation recently cut a $75,000 check to the Berklee City Music Program of Boston's Berklee College of Music. It's the second installment of a two-year, $150,000 grant that aims to scientifically measure the intellectual, social, and academic benefits of musical education for young people.
It's no secret that the economic downturn has forced schools across the country to cut back on music education programs. Some districts were able to reinstate the funding, but others weren't so fortunate. Luckily, private foundations and nonprofit organizations have stepped up to the plate to plug the funding gaps. In some cases, we've seen particularly innovative partnerships between foundations and for-profit businesses. For example, the Grammys are partnering with Converse, the Ford Motor Company, and shoe-maker Journeys to provide 16 public high schools across the US with $2,000 cash grants to support music programs in under-served communities.
That said, a lot of the heavy lifting in this area still rests with foundations that are exclusively devoted to ongoing musical education. Take the Music Empowers Foundation. Their mission aims to provide "funding to nonprofit organizations that offer engaging and innovative music instruction to children in communities where music education either does not exist or is underdeveloped."
Now, you might be thinking what we're thinking: The Berklee College of Music is one of the most prestigious musical institutions in the world. How is it possible that their music education curriculum is in any way "underdeveloped?" The answer is simple. The college is using the money to fund the expansion of the YOUTHBeat Research and Evaluation Project, which is being conducted by Tufts University. The study aims to gauge the effectiveness of music education and how it affects youth academic achievement, music accomplishment, resiliency, leadership, and social skills.
This is tremendously important work because its findings can not only prevent schools from cutting music education, but can also provide powerful evidence that music education should be mandatory, as it contributes to students' overall academic and social development. And while there's no shortage of research testifying to the power of music education, the fact that some school administrators still view it as expendable — particularly given the heightened emphasis of standardized testing — speaks to the fact that additional research is warranted.
For more information on the Music Empowers Foundation, check out IP's profile here.