2021 Grants Challenge

Music in My Neighborhood

With support from LA2050, Neighborhood Music School (NMS) will help students access the transformative power of arts education through high quality, low-cost music lessons on a wide variety of instruments led by caring mentors and over 107 years of community enrichment. Together we will remove financial barriers, place violins in hands, pianos in homes and create vibrant communities filled with music, self-expression, and connection.


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

East LA

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

NMS addresses the lack of access to high quality, low-cost one-to-one music education in Boyle Heights and surrounding communities. 93% of Boyle Heights residents identify as Latinx and 86% of households are Spanish speaking with a median income of $36,451. Less than 38% of students in K-5th Grade have access to music education through their schools yet we know that low-income students who are highly engaged in the arts are twice as likely to graduate college as their peers with no arts education. Hispanic students lack access to quality arts education as compared to their White peers. Therefore, we remove barriers so that every student can explore their unique journey and gain transferrable skills through one-to-one music lessons on a variety of instruments led by caring, qualified, mentor teaching artists. The arts are a right and not a privilege.

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

Although tuition is designed to be affordable, many of our families are unable to pay $68 per month and almost half of our students currently receive financial assistance ranging from a 25-90% reduction in tuition. In partnership with LA2050, we will award more scholarships than ever before so that more students can experience the transformative benefits of music education. Students will meet their teaching artist either in person or via Zoom for a weekly 30-minute lesson on an instrument of their choice. Students can learn piano, violin, cello, voice, guitar, drums, sax, trumpet, ukulele and more. We also understand the importance of students having their own instrument upon which to practice and perform, so we provide instruments through our low-cost rental program. For only $10 per month, we will deliver a piano to the students’ home and cover all costs associated with moving and tuning. We also provide instruments like cellos and violins in various sizes so that as students grow, we can ensure they are working with appropriately sized instruments. NMS students receive approximately 48 lessons annually. Throughout the year, recitals, community events and performances will give students the opportunity to share their newfound skills and connect to the larger community. Teaching artists serve as mentors and work individually with each student and craft a personalized plan to meet artistic, musical and performance benchmarks.

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: 400

Indirect Impact: 5,000

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

When students have access to high quality instruction led by mentors, the whole community of LA benefits. Students take pride and care in their investment, while sharing individual and collective journeys through music. The power of accessible arts education at every level of development is the focus of much study, yet neighborhoods with lower income tend to be left behind. NMS was founded in 1914 to lift that barrier and, in 2021, we continue to lift barriers to access and engage connection to experiences that transform the individual student and the collective community. Music education facilitates development in fine motor skills, reading, repetition, and performance. In doing so, students learn how to apply music skills to academic and life challenges. All families deserve the dignity to provide their children with arts opportunities that help shape their identity and goals. Our goal is for all students to have caring mentors lead them through their artistic and personal journeys.

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

This is an existing program and our model has created deep impact for over a century. We measure our impact by the technical and performance skills each student demonstrates. Students have many opportunities to share their talents with a larger community. In class they work on specific compositions to build proficiency and comfort. Once students feel confident enough to play for others, they participate in Showtime!, a gentle first step to the stage. Once students progress, they work on longer, more challenging compositions to present in NMS Recitals and community events. Advanced students are given opportunities to perform in NMS ensembles at private and civic events. In February 2020, NMS students performed at Idyllwild Arts Sustainability Symposium with Idyllwild students and Lakota Strings. We also measure our impact by the quality and quantity of community engagement and sustained and increased enrollment.

Which of the LEARN metrics will you impact?​

Arts education

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the best place to PLAY

LA is the best place to CONNECT