Music education and instruments for all children

With the cuts to public education funding over the years, many schools have been forced to make hard decisions, resulting in many districts eliminating art and music education. A local nonprofit, BeInstrumental, has been working for the last decade to fill that artistic void, providing music education and instruments to students at little or no cost.

Keeping music alive

School administrators, in response to tightened budgets, chose the core curriculum subjects— English, math, science, history— over art. Research shows that studying music is linked to language development, improved test scores and increased IQs. Music education allows students to practice skills that can be translated into real life experience and applied to other classes.

“Music provides a basis for children to use skills that are in everyday life: listening skills, working as a team, learning to interpret and respond to stimulus, working on social skills in a group setting, participating effectively with peers, and learning from other students,” explains Carol McElfresh, executive director of BeInstrumental.

Studies also show that learning and practicing music facilitates learning in traditional academic areas, such as English and math. “Children learn the best way to approach a difficulty through music instruction,” continues McElfresh. “It has been shown that as children study music, they do better in other classes, and there is a direct correlation between music and math. They also learn expanded attention with reading, comprehending and interacting with a text.”

BeInstrumental’s goal is “to provide music education to children in the community who have little or no access to music,” says McElfresh. The nonprofit works with the University of Toledo and local schools to provide instruments, tuition, and scholarships for after-school music classes.

The teachers of BeInstrumental, certified music teachers or professional musicians, provide group classes in keyboard, guitar, and piano, with eight to 15 students in a class. “Students progress through a standard curriculum— learn notes, basic songs, learn to play with two hands. The next year they can move onto more difficult music,” McElfresh says.

Music mentors

Mentoring brings in local performers who talk with the kids about what it’s like to be a professional musician and the many options for pursuing music as a career.

“Damen Cook, local drummer, has come in and done demonstrations for us,” McElfresh continues. “He shows different types of instruments, we have Q & A time, and they discuss what musical professions are available.”

The nonprofit, celebrating its 10-year anniversary, assists approximately 100 local students each year. While BeInstrumental has received grants to purchase instruments, the organization also takes donations. Individuals can donate instruments and BeInstrumental will ensure that they are functional and then loan them, for free, to students for the school year.

Scholarships for tuition are need-based; parents simply fill out a standard application and based on household income, BeInstrumental can cover up to 100 percent of the tuition costs.

If families “have other extenuating circumstances, we will consider partial tuition,” adds McElfresh.