This year, the Kennedy Center and National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 2018 award was bestowed upon Guilford County Schools. Every year, these two organizations unite to select a school district deserving of their Award for Arts Education Leadership. The recipient of this award is chosen annually and is a public school district that has excelled in its promotion of arts-based learning and its commitment to its students’ education in the arts.
While the Award for Arts Education Leadership is simply a title, it can present exciting opportunities for the winning districts to apply for grants and scholarships to further the arts education of their students.
Shortly after the National School Board Association announced Guilford County Schools as the 2018 recipient, the Lang Lang International Music Foundation reached out to Nathan Street, who is the director of fine arts for Guilford County Schools. The foundation urged him to review the application for one of the grants that they offer, and to encourage local elementary schools to apply.
The grant is geared not only towards schools and districts that display a dedication to music education, but it caters to those that have 75 percent or more of their students receiving free or reduced-cost meals. Irving Park, Falkener, Sedgefield, Jefferson and Oak View elementary schools fit this bill perfectly, and Street assisted the music programs at these schools in applying for the grant. This has resulted in each school receiving twenty to thirty electric pianos.
Several Guilford County elementary schools have introduced their students to the recorder or ukelele, and a few partner with UNC-Greensboro’s music program to offer violin lessons. However, music teachers say that students want to learn to play the piano more than any other instrument, and most schools only have access to a single piano, if their music program has one at all. This has prevented music teachers from being able to properly teach their students to play, but the arrival of the electric pianos could make this a much more accessible goal. Twenty to thirty pianos have the ability to provide an opportunity for group lessons, ensembles, and students excited about learning music.
Rebecca Jochims, a freshman music student at UNC-Greensboro, is looking forward to seeing the impact that the Lang Lang Foundation grant has on the community.
“When young kids have access to something this engaging, it really has the potential to change their lives and help them grow up to believe they can do anything, regardless of where they came from,” said Jochims.
While Irving Park, Falkener, Sedgefield, Jefferson and Oak View Elementary music teachers are just beginning to familiarize their students with the electric pianos by teaching them basic notes, they have high hopes for the future of these young musicians. These programs have already fostered enthusiasm for the ability of the students to play as a group, and are optimistic about the potential for lessons in teamwork, perseverance in learning something new, and overall, arts appreciation.