Burbank's music program gets big boost

It's been more than 20 years since the Burbank Unified School District dropped instrumental music programs in its elementary schools in order to deal with budget cuts.

But parents and educators have rallied the past several years to bring instrumental music back to the classroom.

Their efforts got a boost in recent months as the 2013 Leadership Burbank class raised thousands of dollars for new instruments.

Since January, the 25 class members who are honing their leadership skills and learning about the inner workings of the local community also set out to raise $14,000 to purchase 31 violins and 40 music stands for students at Roosevelt and Providencia elementary schools.

Students at those schools — which already have instrumental programs for certain grade levels paid for by parent groups — have already received their money.

However, the Burbank Leadership class surpassed its own expectations and raised an additional $9,000.

The group plans to donate the extra money to Washington Elementary today so it can launch an instrumental program.

"We thought the 31 violins was great, but to actually kick-start a program is more success than we ever dreamed," said Monica Newhouse, deputy executive director of facilities and planning at Bob Hope Airport, who was part of the Leadership Burbank class. "[Supporters] understand all of what a musical education can do for you."

Elsewhere in the district, the other eight elementary schools offer a general music education program established in 2007. In those classes, students learn about music twice a month but don't practice with an instrument.

School board member Larry Applebaum said the general music program was on the chopping block in 2009 and 2010.

He was grateful it was spared, he said, so it could be enhanced by the latest donations as well as by financial support from parents, educators and nonprofits.

Roosevelt Principal Jennifer Meglemre said first-graders already get to practice with violins once a week. The additional instruments will let them continue using the instruments in the second grade.

"We want everyone to have a foundation," Meglemre said. "Especially at first grade — we believe that impacts their reading and math skills."

Providencia Principal Jennifer Culbertson said the school offers an instrumental program for fourth- and fifth-graders as well as an after-school orchestra, which will be expanded with the additional violins.

Applebaum said the district has high hopes for the instrumental program.

"Our goal and our expectation, which we have yet to fully realize, is that every student graduating out of elementary school would be able to read music," he said.


Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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