Celebrating education through melody

By Luke Wilusz

One lucky group of fifth graders got to celebrate their school’s new keyboard lab with some star power as they received musical pointers from Chicago-based rockers the Plain White T’s on Oct. 28.

The band joined representatives from the VH1 Save the Music Foundation and ZonePerfect Nutritional Bars at Jacob Beidler Elementary School, 3151 W. Walnut St. to present a $30,000 grant to support the school’s music program. The grant paid for the purchase and installation of 16 Casio keyboards for the school’s new keyboard lab. The foundation also donated another music education grant to the Lionel Hampton Fine and Performing Arts School, 3434 W. 77th St.

“I am elated, and so is our principal, [Dr. Shirley Ewing], because this is a good thing and a quote, unquote selling point for the school,” said Hermane Eiland, Beidler’s music teacher. “The students are really excited about it. Everybody wants to go in there. Nobody wants to go into the regular general music class now. Everybody wants to go into the keyboard lab.”

Eiland said school music programs benefit students by allowing them to be creative while supporting skills they can apply in the rest of their classes.

“The arts definitely help the students in core subject areas such as math because music utilizes so many math skills,” Eiland said. “There is reading—not only reading [music] notes—but they also have to be able to read the instructional manuals and books they have. The actual practice and dedication is something that can be carried over into all of their core subjects and every aspect of their lives. Period.”

Julia Stoner, senior brand manager for ZonePerfect, which provided the funding for the donation, said in addition to enhancing students’ performances in other academic areas, music education can teach students creative thinking that can be applied in a variety of careers.

“I work in a business and we do have to run the numbers and crunch the numbers all the time, but it’s also about innovation,” Stoner said. “You have to be creative to bring innovation to a brand. ZonePerfect is a brand looking to launch new products every year, and you can’t launch new products without creativity—not only understanding the consumer need, but also being creative about bringing that need to a consumer.”

According to Paul Cothran, executive director of the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, the foundation awards grants based on a school’s need and its ability to carry out a music education curriculum. He said in order to be eligible, schools must have the space to store the instruments, employ certified educators to teach the classes and be able to incorporate music programs in their core curriculum. The foundation chooses schools that meet those criteria but lack the resources necessary to buy instruments and implement music programs.

Cothran said music and arts programs are vital to any educational curriculum, but the American public school system has lost sight of its importance.

“If you look back at American public school education, at one time it really was the standard of the world,” Cothran said. “It was somewhat equitable and provided a really comprehensive education. Over the years, there has been a narrowing of curriculum. Schools now are teaching to specific standardized tests rather than ensuring they’re developing the full individual so the person coming out of that school is able to go on and pursue a higher education and is better prepared to succeed in further education and succeed in life.”

To learn more about the VH1 Save the Music Foundation and other programs and initiatives it’s involved in, visit VH1SaveTheMusic.com.