It’s important to celebrate the cultural and musical history in our communities, and that starts by educating and inspiring students.
Executive Director, Save the Music Foundation
The Save the Music Foundation, a non-profit that started nearly 25 years ago, is on a mission to help students, schools, and communities reach their full potential through the power of making music.
Since 1997, they’ve helped over 2,000 schools across the country start and sustain music programs. They partner with public school districts to donate grants to schools in grades pre-K-12 to jumpstart and support their music programs. They donate instruments and music technology, provide support services for teachers, and advocate for music education.
“When you go to that music room, it’s a place of refuge, it’s a place of joy,” says Henry Donahue, executive director of the Save the Music Foundation. “You can see the benefits that it brings to the students, the parents, the teachers, the school, and to that community,”
The organization tracks impact and says when their music program is in place, student attendance improves, the school’s test scores improve, students do better academically, and teachers report better social emotional learning.
The roots of American music
Save The Music is currently working with schools in 11 areas including New Jersey, Southern Florida, Northern and Southern California, Louisiana, Detroit, Tennessee, Ohio, and others.
Donahue says the roots of American music are in many of these areas, but often students’ everyday experiences aren’t connected to that to that rich legacy.
“There are about 5 million students nationwide that don’t have music as part of their school day. Many of those schools are in districts that primarily serve Black students, Latino students, immigrant students, and rural students,” says Donahue.
He continues, “In one sense they’re underserved, but in another sense they’re very rich, from a cultural perspective. Connecting students in those schools to that history, that legacy, and that cultural richness is super powerful.”
Celebrating music culture
The goal is to help kids keep the cultural and musical history alive in their respective communities.
In Newark, New Jersey, Save the Music is in their fifth year of a project where they are investing in 45 schools in a district of 35,000 students. Grants cover a variety of music making including new instruments and music technology programs which help kids learn how to produce and engineer music, make beats, and write songs.
Save the Music also brings in the national expertise to connect local students with real-life musicians. Newark native Queen Latifah and Wyclef Jean, who attended Newark public schools, joined as program ambassadors.
“I am deeply humbled by the opportunity to be a part of the amazing work that Save The Music does,” says Latifah. “This is bigger than just teaching kids how to play instruments — it’s about using music to bring communities together and giving all children a shot at a brighter future. This work can’t stop until every child can access music programs as part of their education.”
Investing in music
The pandemic has been challenging for teachers and students, but music has helped them cope. Save the Music has made 100 school investments this year, including funding a project to train 1,000 teachers on social emotional learning and trauma informed care, and incorporating that into the music classroom as a way to further help students.
“I think people really appreciated how important music and the arts were to children’s mental health during a very traumatic and challenging time,” says Donahue. “Having that outlet for creative expression and to process the experience that we’re all going through is incredibly important.”
Investing in music education can inspire kids to make their own mark on music history.
“We’re providing the students, schools, and teachers with the tools, but they create the music,” says Donahue.
To sign up your school and learn more about Save the Music Foundation, visit https://www.savethemusic.org/.