The current educational approach to music in the LAUSD as well as other large urban school districts is to relegate music and other arts to the role of extracurricular activities. In the entertainment capital of the world, it is amazing that a more practical approach towards producing fine musicians locally isn’t made. Instead, music education budgets are slashed or, as in most cases, are non-existent outside of the teacher’s salary. V__G__ from one LAUSD school told us, “There is no band budget. Everything we need to function is either paid for by myself or the kids fund raise for it.” She later went on to mention that fund raising is less than ideal because the school takes 50% of everything the kids raise for the general student body fund. This means, that even when children and their families take it upon themselves to fill in where the school should actually be showing support, only half of every dollar they raise gets to it’s intended destination.
For decades, our city has hacked away at music and art programs under the white flag of budgetary short falls. As far back as 1993, the New York Times discussed the issue and singled out Los Angeles as a place that is particularly hard hit by this trend. Since then, the problem has only gotten worse and very little is written about it and even fewer studies are done to understand the impact that a lack of music makes. What studies exist paint a clear picture (Mozart Effect, Science Daily). Music is beneficial and helps children become better students and excel in subjects like math and language that would seem unrelated. If a school in your community refused to offer SAT prep workshops, or simply didn’t think it necessary to expose children to the use of computers, you would certainly feel, that it was not serving it’s fundamental responsibility to its students in an age where college and computers are basic components of the modern workplace. Therefore, we can say that music education is another valuable tool that can be used to help young people excel academically and, if a school in a poor urban community refuses to offer quality music education, then the directors of that school are not offering equal access to tools that can reliably and measurably aid in their student’s success. This makes the lack of real music programs a civil rights issue for the poor and not just a trimming of the fat, that government and school officials would like to believe.
Suffice it to say, that musicians in Los Angeles are not likely to be home grown as long as the prevailing thought on the subject remains decidedly against music. Not the proven benefits or even the enormous availability of careers in the performing arts here can motivate local school districts to treat music as a valid a career path or of value to academic success. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the community and parents to do what they can to support arts in their local schools and pressure local government officials to provide a vehicle for those with talent and dedication to pursue their desire to learn more about the arts and succeed in life as a direct result.