2021 Grants Challenge

Music Education for Los Angeles

The Fender Play Foundation places instruments in the hands of youth who aspire to play and receive the powerful benefits of music education. We will expand our middle school music program in partnership with LAUSD to reach 6,000 additional students from across the city. By providing students with instruments, live music classes, and access to the Fender Play app, the Fender Play Foundation is designing a middle school music program that enhances learning and gives students a creative outlet at a time when they need it most.


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

LAUSD (select only if you have a district-wide partnership or project)

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

The Fender Play Foundation's middle school music program seeks to support student engagement and mental health, which has been negatively impacted by school closures. A recent report revealed that 40% of LAUSD middle and high schoolers were disengaged or absent from classes in spring 2020. More than 13,000 middle and high school students have been consistently disengaged in fall 2020. An additional 56,000 did not actively participate on a daily basis. School closures have accelerated many existing inequities and mental health challenges for students. A national poll reported that 46% of parents say their teen had shown signs of a new or worsening mental health condition. Recent CDC data revealed mental health-related emergency room visits increased 31 percent for children between the ages of 12 and 17 from March to October compared to the same period in 2019. Music education can help students navigate these challenges exacerbated by the current health crisis.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Our innovative program combines synchronous and asynchronous learning to engage middle school students and give them the transformative opportunity to learn a new instrument. We donate brand new Fender instruments (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass and ukulele) to students and work with Los Angeles Unified School District teachers to create and deliver pedagogically-sound music lesson plans. Students also receive free access to Fender Play, a digital platform for learning and practicing their instrument. For inspiration, professional musicians host field trips to share their music experiences directly with students, teachers and parents. At the end of each semester, students always get to keep their instrument and have the opportunity to continue learning with our program. Over 58% of students from the 2020 fall semester reenrolled to keep playing in the 2021 spring semester. In survey responses, multiple students have expressed the mental health benefits of learning an instrument through our program. Here are a handful of responses from the most recent survey during the 2021 spring semester: “I feel happy when playing the guitar. It helps me when I'm stressed.” “Online learning is pretty stressful and getting lost into the music playing guitar really helps.” “I feel refreshed most of the time, because I play my instrument as a break from work.” “It’s fun and helpful for my anxiety.”

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 6,000

Indirect Impact: 12,000

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Our vision is to inspire and unite students and families in Los Angeles County through music. To scale and reach more students, we need partners who recognize the power of music to bring people together. Music education is a community-driven solution for young people to withstand increased isolation, mental health challenges and division in Los Angeles. By mobilizing the community to help us increase access to arts education, boost enrollment in after school programs, and combat K-8 chronic absenteeism, the Fender Play Foundation can help Los Angeles become known for providing the most creative and engaging education in the country.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Our program uses quantitative data from Fender Play app usage, demographic data from LAUSD about program enrollment and qualitative data from parent, teacher and student surveys throughout the semester to measure our outcomes. Based on an analysis of Fender Play app usage, we learned that students from the 2020 fall semester who reenrolled for the 2021 spring semester watched more lessons a week than those who didn't continue with the program. We also discovered that students who reenrolled watched twice as many lessons on their “off days” (days without classes) as those who didn't continue with the program. Based on demographic data from LAUSD, we are monitoring enrollment and engagement for students of color, low-income students, English learners, foster youth, students with disabilities and homeless students. Based on parent, teacher and student surveys throughout the semester, we can gauge the impact our program has on learning, engagement, confidence and mental health.

Which of the LEARN metrics will you impact?​

Arts education

Enrollment in afterschool programs

K-8 chronic absenteeism

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the best place to CREATE

LA is the best place to CONNECT