2020 Grants Challenge

In-School Music Education Program for Low-Income Schools

ETM-LA's In-School Music Education Program for Low-Income Schools provides high-quality, comprehensive music education to students in low-income, high-risk elementary and secondary schools across LA County. The program reaches all children regardless of race, class, or ability and is set apart by being part of the school day. Our core belief is that all children deserve a well-rounded education, one inclusive of the arts, to ensure their holistic development.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

East LA

South LA


In what stage of innovation is this project?

Applying a proven model or solution to a new issue or sector (e.g, using a job recruiting software or strategy to match clients to supportive housing sites, applying demonstrated strategies from advocating for college affordability to advocating for housing affordability and homelessness, etc.)

What is the need you’re responding to?

10% of jobs in California — and 7.8% of the state’s GDP — are linked to the arts. While California once led the nation in arts education, a 1970 state law eliminated arts requirements from elementary teacher training, and in 1978 Prop. 13 resulted in deep cuts in school art and music programs. Today, students can go K-12th grade with no arts education at all. “And now that [music is] gone, many administrators don’t know how to get it back” says Patricia Wayne, Prog. Dir., Create CA. Students enrolled in school art programs have higher attendance and graduation rates, higher reading levels, fewer discipline problems and stronger social-emotional skills according to Laura Smyth, Prog. Dir., Title I Initiative CA Alliance for Arts Education. And because some children in public schools are getting high-quality arts education and others are not, “It’s no longer just a school issue, it’s a moral issue. There’s a huge equity gap.”

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?​

ETM-LA began in 2006 with 2 partner schools, teaching 800 students. In this our 14th year, we have grown to 42 partners schools, teaching 17,500 students in 6 public school districts and 2 charter networks. ETM-LA’s customizes its program for each partner school, making it unique to that community and its specific needs. We ensure our program is top notch and innovative – providing our students with opportunities they would otherwise not have – by employing highly skilled, educated, and trained teachers that use music to nurture character development, self-esteem, and social skills. We listen and respond to our partners so that our program evolves in real time to meet our schools’ needs. This includes STEAM-focused lessons, film/tv music and composition instruction, and a deeper focus on special needs, music therapy, and healing-centered practices. Through the current pandemic, we pivoted quickly to provide students with distance learning and music activity packets.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?​

Direct Impact: 20,000

Indirect Impact: 30,000

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

For our students – the majority of whom are at-risk - the benefits of music education are critical & life-changing. We are witness to the communal and holistic development in our students & partner school communities, including their ability to more deeply empathize and collaborate with diverse groups of students. As the majority of poor students experience the negative effects of being marginalized or dealing with trauma, music “becomes a source of hope and an outlet for healing,” says Principal Sklarsh of Normandie Elem. in S. Central. Access and inclusion are vital to ensuring that these children have a healthy, bright future so that they – our future leaders – can make LA the best place to create, play, connect, live, and learn in 2050.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

Our vision of success begins at the ground level as evidenced through student/teacher/parent surveys, student journals, performance attendance, and school attendance rates. The ultimate success of our program is a partner school assuming the full cost of their sustained music program and the school hiring ETM-LA’s music teacher onto their staff. Measures of success include the following:

* Increased student performance in and attitudes toward both the arts and school.

* The ability of music teachers and academic teachers to integrate music with other subjects.

* Broadened and deepened school/community understanding of and support for arts education.

* School efforts toward sustaining programs independently.

An example of our measurable success comes from partner school McKinley Elementary in Compton. After one year of implementing ETM-LA, which was the only change the school instituted that year, McKinley went from last (21 out of 21 schools) to first in attendance, and by year two went to first in math and reading as well. In March 2019, McKinley Elementary was named one of the Top Los Angeles Public Schools for Underserved Students.

Which of the LEARN metrics will your submission impact?​

Arts education

Early education enrollment

K-8 chronic absenteeism

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?​

LA is the best place to CREATE

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?​

Access to the LA2050 community