In a recent post, we looked at how nonprofits can broaden their efforts in communicating the value of the arts and arts education. Of course, this mandate applies to all segments under the "arts education" umbrella, most notably music education. Key to this activity is amassing compelling data that speaks to the value of music education, because, whether we like it or not, foundations are increasingly drawn to the power of metrics and return on investment.
Therefore, before we talk about exciting news out of Boston, which finds the Music & Youth Initiative awarding $220,000 in grants to 12 Youth Development Partners in support of their "Music Clubhouse" programs, we'd like to contextualize this and look at it through the lens of the real-world benefits of music education. As this PBS piece notes, we now have research that shows:
- A strong relationship between sustained involvement in instrumental music across middle/high school and high level math proficiency in grade 12, particularly for students from the lowest income families.
- Keyboard and vocal lessons contribute to measured intelligence in six- to seven-year-olds, particularly around "performance items related to math, science and spatial measures."
- Mozart piano sonatas gave college-age subjects a small boost in spatial reasoning skills.
And so we turn to Boston, where in an age of reduced funding, ongoing budget wars, and standardized testing paranoia, the Music & Youth Initiative, an organization dedicated to creating accessible, sustainable, high-quality music programs, handed out close $220,000 to a dozen partners.
These partners provide free (or minimal cost) music lessons to underserved youth ages 10 to 18 in Massachusetts and Texas, with a focus on guitar, keyboard, drums, voice, and music recording technology. Music & Youth also donated more than $15,000 in equipment and provided program support services valued at $125,000.
Ultimately, the Music & Youth initiative works to close what it calls "the opportunity gap." Given cuts to music education, testing requirements, and societal ills like drugs and violence, many underserved children are faced with a "profound lack of opportunity." Yet, "if we can reach one person and give her—or him—a safe place to get excited by music and to capture that excitement, to build academic social and life skills, it’s a great start."