We are entering fall, and students are returning to school! For many of us, the phrase “back to school” brings back memories of new classes, new friends, and singing in school choral music programs. Unfortunately, these opportunities are not available for all.
Chorus America’s Music Education Partnership Grants program was created in response to these inequities. This spring, the program distributed over $900,000 in grants to fund projects designed to increase access to choral music and promote non-arts learning and cultural literacy while upholding the principles of access, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Grants were awarded to support collaborations during the 2022-23 school year. A full list of grant partners can be found here.
While all projects and partnerships vary in scope and design, they share common characteristics. Every project demonstrates the following core values of the program:
Community Co-Creation. Students, parents, and school play a valuable role in co-creating music opportunities and collectively developing the artistic product.
Fostering Cultural Exchange. Projects foster mutually beneficial and long-term relationships between communities to share cultural and musical traditions through singing.
Working to Repair Damages Caused by Historical and Systemic Racism. All projects reflect a commitment to equity and seek to address the inequities in music education that have been perpetuated by a history of systemic racism.
Many of the funded projects embody these values by expanding or redefining types of musical opportunities available in the elementary general music class. At McAuliffe Elementary School in Oceanside, CA, all students will have access to vocal music for the first time through a partnership with Ka Hula Olima, educators of Pacific Islander music, movement, and storytelling. The Bi-National Arts Institute is prioritizing the music of migrants from around the globe and preparing students on the Arizona-Mexico border in Naco, AZ, for A Concert Without Borders. COMPAS in St. Paul, MN, is partnering with Nanilo, a women’s singing trio that specializes in music from the Balkan, Gujarati, Yiddish, and Eastern European traditions.
Singing can be a powerful form of expression for family connection. A multigenerational approach is present in many of our grant partners’ projects. The Arts & Revitalization Corporation in Bluefield, WV, is working with Mercer County schools to provide intergenerational singing opportunities for grandparents and other caregivers to sing with young people. In Minneapolis, MN, VocalEssence is partnering with a school for pregnant and parenting students so that parents and their young children have opportunities to connect with their culture by singing together.
All projects demonstrate strong community involvement and collaboration with authentic culture bearers. In Vancouver, Indigenous leaders and youth mentors are facilitating a free music education program for newcomer and refugee students in partnership with the Vancouver Youth Choir. In Mesa, AZ, Desert Sounds Performing Arts is utilizing grant funds to provide vocal training in the mariachi style and participation in after-school mariachi ensembles. And the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, WV, is implementing a year-long singing course to introduce students to Appalachian, Cuban, and Black Gospel culture bearers.
This is just a small glimpse into the full roster of impactful projects. We encourage you to check out the full list of grant partners to learn more about them. As the school year progresses, we look forward to sharing more updates on how our partners are increasing access to choral music education within their communities.
Kimberly Theodore Sidey is the Director of Grants at Chorus America, where she oversees the music education grants review process, collection of data and impact, and learning cohort for Chorus America’s grant partners.