One of my fondest memories of elementary school was learning to play the recorder. I cherished the cheap, plastic instrument as if it were a silver flute. I remember the thrill of learning to create notes and harmonies with my classmates. I’m sure our beautiful melodies were abrasive to adult ears, but to us they were magical.
My music career petered out after grade school. I ditched the violin for the school newspaper. Even though I’m not a recorder maestro, my early foundation of music education has had lasting benefits.
I’m not the only one. Studies show that children who take music lessons have a greater understanding of language, and score higher on spelling tests. They are more likely to stay in school, and more likely to graduate. Childhood music lessons can even improve memory later in life.
But when schools face budget cuts, music programs are often the first to go. That’s why VH1 Save The Music Foundation is on a mission to put instruments back in the hands of children across the country. Since 1997, the nonprofit has kept the music alive by providing more than $50 million in new musical instruments to our public schools.
To underscore the impact of their work, the foundation releases an annual report each year. Take a look at some key details from their remarkable work this past year.
Nationwide: The foundation raised $3.8 million for 53 schools. That’s 239,000 kids with new instruments in their hands.
One school’s story: In 2012, VH1 Save the Music partnered with the Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified School District in Firebaugh, California. This was a school where 93 percent of students qualified for free lunch and lived below the poverty line. Now, the school is thriving thanks to the rebirth of music.
The teacher: Music teacher Ryan Dirlam says the program utterly transformed his classroom.
“I think that one of the most powerful moments came last year from a third-year sax player in my middle school band. He hasn’t had the easiest life, and could have easily went down the wrong paths like many around him had. When we came back to school after winter break, he yelled, ‘Finally! I’m home!’ and started setting up his instrument. A home is where you learn your moral values, where you take your first steps, where you feel safe and where you long to be. And for some, that home is the band room.”
Read Dirlam’s full testimony about the power of music here.
The student: When Alexander Ramirez took his first year of band in 7th grade, the class didn’t have instruments.
“Before music came back, I didn’t really feel that my experience in school was all that it could be; it felt monotonous. My best subject at the time was science, but even then that class was starting to get boring. I only had a few friends and I didn’t really have a group in school.”
Things changed for Ramirez once VH1 Save the Music stepped in.
“Most of my friends are in band and I think that it’s band that made us friends. Band is something that we all have in common, and it’s awesome to be able to refer to the band as our band family.”
Read Ramirez’s full story here.
Partners: VH1 Save the Music teamed up with Toyota, Just Dance, Alex and Ani, Avnet, and even Barbie. Click here to see the full list of donors who helped bring back the music in 2015.
Check out the website to see how you can help keep the music alive.