Philadelphia’s Private Foundations Bet on Music Education

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As the debate goes on about the importance of the arts within the public education system in America, a group of private foundations in Philadelphia is leading the charge to save public music education in the city.

As reported by Philly News, the amount of private funding for public music education has increased over the past four years. The aim? To ensure that every child, from kindergarten to high schools seniors, in both wealthy and poor districts, are provided with access to music education.

There are a variety of intensive after-school neighborhood programs devoted to music that is on the rise in the city, such as Play On, Philly! and the renown Philadelphia Youth Orchestra’s Tune Up Philly program. Another program, the All City Orchestra Program, has recently been given renewed support from the School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia orchestra. Even the Mann Center, located in West Philadelphia, is trying to figure out a way to donate its considerable resources to the new push for music education.

Three private foundations are also lending are also lending their support in the form of donations and programs.

The William Penn Foundation has reportedly given more than $12 million to arts education, including music, to the city in the last four years, which is a 500 percent increase from the previous four years.

The Mellon Foundation also awarded $2.5 million to fund a program known as the Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth, aimed at developing talent in the inner city and underrepresented communities. In its first year, the program has delivered music education to 75 students from the 4th grade to the 11th grade, including music camp and other training opportunities, free of charge.

Finally, the Neubauer Family Foundation is creating an initiative with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the University of Pennsylvania, and the School District of Philadelphia to map out the music education programs already in existence so that it can provide funding to the schools and programs that need it the most.

It seems that the efforts put forth, both by private foundations and public schools, seems to be paying off. Although only 58 percent of all students in Philadelphia have access to art and music, it is hoped that with more private funding, the number will grow over the years.

The collaboration between these foundations, art groups, and the Philadelphia School District signals that the city is ready to embrace a well-rounded arts education, including music. While there is more work to be done, the support from private foundations is welcome. Now the city waits to see what the results of this teamwork might be.