2022 Grants Challenge

LAMusArt's Tuition-Free Music Ensembles for East LA Youth

LAMusArt's Tuition-Free Music Ensembles is a no-cost, sequential, intensive program that provides high quality music education, performance opportunities and intergenerational exchange to predominantly BIPOC youth (ages 7-21) who've been routinely subjected to systemic disinvestment. The year-round program teaches students culturally responsive repertoire, theory and technique in a collaborative setting with offerings such as Choir, Jazz, Mariachi, and Orchestra. Students can join any time and are eligible for a free instrument loan if needed.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

K-12 STEAM Education

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

East LA

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

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

In our predominantly Hispanic/Latinx community, we’ve seen the disparity of arts education plague students for years. Even before COVID-19, our local schools struggled to reach the state-mandated arts curriculum requirement while wealthier schools were 40% more likely to receive funding. According to the LA County Arts Education Collective, schools with higher numbers of English learners, students of color, or low-income students receive fewer arts opportunities and lower quality instruction. There's a dearth of equitable and affordable artistic options where students who could benefit the most are getting it the least. We're located in the heart of East LA, an area that's been impacted by high crime rates (74% higher than the national average) and one of the worst COVID-19 infection rates in the nation at the peak of the pandemic. Furthermore, 19% of our region is experiencing poverty, and 92% are without a Bachelor’s degree or higher (based on adults 25 years or older).

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

The Tuition-Free Music Ensembles program directly responds to racist and classist policies that fund policing and encourage the school-to-prison pipeline while ignoring productive, artistic alternative opportunities for students to thrive. The program aims to directly combat East LA adversities without diluting or displacing the vibrancy of our community by providing weekly, free music instruction through eight ensembles including the Choir, Advanced Choir, Orchestra, Mariachi, Advanced Mariachi, Jazz, Strings and Advanced Strings. To address the systemic inequities that make lasting impact on students' academic, social and behavioral development, LAMusArt offers the Tuition-Free Music Ensembles as an affordable, equitable and accessible option for students to engage in musicianship and thus, collaboration, confidence, and creativity. The program offers instruction, rehearsals and performance weekly for 49 weeks per year and there are no barriers to join. Students are eligible for a free instrument loan if needed. Over the course of the year, 125-150 students engage in 75-100 hours of music instruction and performance annually. The program employs 10 paid Teaching Artists, and is supported by a staff of 9. The program boasts a 90% retention rate, with some students enrolled as long as eleven years.

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

The artistic vision that drives us is an arts ecosystem that's inclusive, diverse and equitable, and is designed to replenish and recreate productive alternatives for our community to develop themselves holistically. We believe that encouraging students to place value on arts learning, and enabling audiences to witness the arts by offering these opportunities without barriers, is imperative to a well-rounded education and the wellbeing of the community as a whole. Offering students the artistic education they've been denied is our way of diversifying the artistic landscape of Los Angeles. Our unique mix of classical chamber/choral music and Mariachi/Jazz strikes a balance between the complex and historic elements of Western and/or Eurocentric arts learning, and the cultural significance of traditional Latin/Hispanic art forms that celebrate people of color. We embrace diverse modes of pedagogy, and work to recontextualize elements of historic codes that weren't made for POC.

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

LAMusArt's Curriculum Framework was developed in 2019 specifically to assess the effectiveness of our program curriculum and student progress. The Framework, as well as the Pedagogical Understandings, were collectively created using our staff and teachers with the guidance of a facilitator. With this framework, we evaluate the development of crucial life skills each student garners with a unifying approach to arts instruction across music ensembles in the program. In addition to this evaluation method, LAMusArt assesses metrics based tracking. We measure (and document) successful outcomes by counting the number of students who come back after their initial lesson, the number of lessons given, the amount of students increasing their level of participation (joining new ensembles or adding private lessons to their learning slate) and the number of audience members at recitals.

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

Direct Impact: 150

Indirect Impact: 2,500