Mary Ellen Pense, the Music for Minors teacher, works with students at Parkside Elementary School in San Mateo.
Joyful faces, excited parents, dancing, musical games, clapping and kindergarten and first-graders uttering the words “decrescendo” and “crescendo” filled Parkside Elementary School this week as part of national Music in Our Schools month.
This is all part of music sharing events throughout elementary schools in the county that use the group Music for Minors for music education.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is strengthen advocacy and help people understand why music is so important,” said Executive Director Sonja Palmer. “It really excites them and keeps them engaged.”
The San Carlos-based nonprofit, established in 1976, now provides more than 18,000 K-5 grade students with ongoing in-school music education and serves participating schools in Santa Clara County as well. Music for Minors creates the curriculum for the music classes and hires the teachers, who are both volunteers and paid, for the programs. The curriculum is tied into the state’s music standards.
The group wants to reach as many kids who aren’t getting music in school since it has many benefits to students, said Ceci Ogden, director of development and communications.
“Early music education has benefits to brain development, reading readiness, math, self esteem, creativity, teamwork and listening skills,” she said. “All skills are critically important throughout academic life. Students who participate in music do better in school.”
Students learn music terms, use rhythm instruments, sing and do other activities. There are currently around 600 classes run by the program.
“There’s pockets of music education provided by districts, but there are thousands of elementary schools without music in their schools,” Ogden said.
Some of these pockets come from budget restrictions set forth in the 1978 tax initiative Proposition 13, Ogden said.
When founder Grace Johnston relocated her family to California, she felt very strongly that schools should have music education.
Meanwhile, John Sylvester, who’s on the board for Music for Minors, said the group helps open young children to an appreciation for music and gives them an introduction into actually doing musical performances.
“Music education is not emphasized as much as it once was,” Sylvester said. “Music for Minors tries to fill that role and get kids introduced to and interested in music.”
For more on the organization, visit mfm.org/index.html.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105