Providing Music Education to the Students of Denver

Research shows that when music education is provided as part of the core curriculum in students have more motivation for school, overall improvements in their capacity to learn, and boosted self-confidence.

But access to music education is not equal.

While public schools in the Denver metro area have invested in their school music programs, music is still not a guaranteed part of a student’s curriculum. There are many schools, especially at the middle school level, where funding and other issues have provided a significant barrier to entry when it comes to having comprehensive music programs for our children.

Now, there’s a new non-profit in Denver aiming to knock down those barriers and bring music education to all of Colorado’s students: meet Education Through Music, and organization that has implemented music education programs into the core curriculum of under-served schools coast-to-coast. In the 2019-2020 school year, ETM will serve over 50,000 students throughout our programs in New York, Los Angeles and Denver.

Founded in New York City in 1991, Education Through Music (ETM) is one of the leading music education nonprofit organizations. They specifically work to provide music as a core subject for all children and have been able to provide quality music education into the core curriculum for thousands of K-12 students and help school systems to maintain those programs independently. Thanks to continuous growth and proven academic success for their students over nearly three decades, ETM has been able to launch affiliates in Los Angeles and now, Colorado.

This month, ETM-Colorado kick-started the school year by partnering with two Denver Public School elementary schools: Center for Talent Development at Greenlee and Trevista at Horace Mann. By partnering with under-resourced schools without music programming, ETM-Colorado makes music education a reality for thousands of children who would otherwise have limited or no access to music education. Our programming uses evidence-informed strategies that address the difficulties of implementing and sustaining a comprehensive school music program.

As the Executive Director of ETM-Colorado, it is my responsibility to provide development direction and fundraising strategies to support our aggressive growth plan to reach many students throughout Colorado, starting right here in Denver.  A Denver local and graduate of the University of Denver, I’ve served as a performer and music teacher in Denver and can’t wait to expand equity and access in music education for our community. A classically trained pianist, music is a part of my heart and soul.

Since joining the ETM team, I’ve seen first-hand the tremendous need for high-quality music education in our schools and the greater impact our organization has had on students in New York and Los Angeles. I am thrilled to be launching our Colorado expansion; I have been working to build a strong Board of Directors, prioritized hiring an excellent staff and working hand-in-hand with our new teachers and mentors that serve as anchors of our programming.

Our unique model employs a  hands-on approach, collaborating with principals to develop sustainable music programs that are fully integrated into the school culture, as well as the core curriculum. We offer professional development to both music- and non-music teachers, help obtain funding for instruments and classroom equipment, and provide a foundation for teachers to connect in a positive peer-to-peer network. Our program assigns mentors to each teacher and provides resources and day-to-day support like lesson planning, classroom management, performance preparation, observation and feedback. Our music curriculum is comprehensive, sequential and tied to grade-specific benchmarks that help us measure the success of our program in each school district. After demonstrating the value of a high-quality music education to the whole school community, partnering schools and districts are better able to justify continued investments in maintaining sufficient music teachers on staff to teach music as a core subject to all students.

ETM-Colorado is rooted in the belief that strong school leadership is key to a successful partnership. A great teacher with the right professional development and mentorship is likely to remain in the profession and make a long-lasting impact on the community they serve.

We’ve hired 15-year veteran music educator Karissa Swanson as Instructional Supervisor to work closely with each of our music teachers to provide ongoing support and professional development for non-music teachers to help promote cross-curricular integration and fosters school environments that value music. I know her dedication and passion for education will help support ETM-Colorado’s mission.

We’ve also hired two passionate and effective full-time teachers to bring ETM-Colorado’s programming to life in these preliminary partner schools. The teachers will be supported by Swanson, as well as engaging in many professional development workshops that are hosted by ETM. Together, they support our community of educators hoping to make long-lasting impacts on the Denver community.

For our first school year in Colorado, all students participating in our program will perform in at least two concerts throughout the school year. These unique opportunities are incredibly important to engage with the local and school communities and connect with parents and families in fun and exciting ways. Through our music programs, we’ve seen boosts in academic achievement, as well as in parental and family engagement, which in turn strengthens our school communities overall.

And we’re seeing the impacts already. Within the first few weeks of the school year, we’ve already experienced positive feedback from students, teachers, and administrators. In the second week of school this year, Tony, a second grade student at one of our pilot schools, recently cried as he lined up at the end of music class. He explained to his teacher, Mr. Cody, that he just loves music class so much that he wanted to stay longer. Tony had never had a music class before this school year and now it’s a part of his weekly classes and integrated into his core curriculum.

If you walk the hallways at CTD Greenlee and Trevista you will now hear music. Every child within the walls of these schools will experience academia more deeply and learn more thoroughly. ETM-Colorado strives to make this a reality for thousands of children in our state and provide a well-rounded education that includes music education – something all children deserve.

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