St. Philip’s has an active After-School Music Program during the school year, in which children not only learn fundamentals of choral singing, enjoy snacks, and receive mentoring with their homework, but also have weekly private lessons on a musical instrument. So what happens to these students’ private lessons when school is out and the After-School Music Program takes a summer break? They, and many other fortunate Tucson children, continue their studies via the Tucson Summer Music Program.
Tucson Summer Music is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides free music education to children aged 5-13 from low-income families. The 30-minute private music lessons could include such instruments as flute, piano, guitar, clarinet, trumpet, violin, and cello. The selection varies from year because the program is staffed entirely by volunteers. In addition to private lessons, Tucson Summer Music also offers group music theory lessons, string and wind ensembles, and group voice lessons. If families do not have access to an instrument or are unable to rent their own instrument, Tucson Summer Music provides assistance. The program runs the first full week of June through the last week of July, ending in a final recital meant to acquaint the students with performing in front of a group. In addition to the regular weekly lessons, the program also provides a Culture Concert, in which local musicians perform for the students to increase their exposure to and awareness of the musical traditions around them in Tucson.
The current economic crisis has greatly depleted funding for programs such as the fine arts. At the same time, families’ budgets are tightened due to unemployment and pay cuts. The outcome is that many students may not have the opportunity to express themselves through music. In response to this deficit, Tucson Summer Music was started. Shelby King, the program’s founder, explains that four years ago, she drove past a sign for an elementary school that said “we have fine arts,” and was taken aback by the fact that they had to advertise that they offered fine arts. She did some research and discovered that only a minority of schools actually have fine arts programs. This inspired her to formulate a plan to create a program to offer free music education using volunteers and, she says, “just started making phone calls. I grew up with a lot of music, and was fortunate to have strong music programs in the K-12 schools I attended.” The Tucson Summer Music Program has been in operation for four years and has grown from 11 students and 6 volunteers the first year to 90 students and 20 volunteers this year (the program’s fourth year).
Tucson Summer Music provides a twofold service to the community: in addition to the free music lessons for children from low-income families, it provides local music students an opportunity to gain experience teaching on their instrument. Teachers can obtain approximately fifteen hours of community service and valuable teaching experience. To apply they must submit an application, resume, and three references, as well as undergoing a background check through the Tucson Police Department.
Three years ago, Tucson Summer Music began partnering with St. Philip’s, offering free lessons to participants in the After-School Music Program in exchange for use of St. Philip’s classrooms and pianos. The relationship has been rewarding for all parties concerned.
When asked to share a little about herself, Shelby said: “I just graduated from Occidental College (a small liberal arts college in Los Angeles) with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy Economics. I’m taking a year off to work in the State Courts in California through the Capital Fellows Judicial Administration Fellowship before I apply for graduate school to obtain a JD (law degree) and a Master’s in Public Policy. I absolutely love politics and law, but I also love music. Tucson Summer Music is my way to share my love of music with Tucson’s youth.”
Tucson Summer Music is funded mostly by individual donations — monetary and instruments. The program received a grant from the Strauss Family Foundation last year, which was an enormous honor and really helped them to expand. Funds are used for instrument rental, teacher background checks, and other official business. Instruments are loaned free of charge to students for use during the summer. All staff is unpaid. For more information about the program see http://www.tucsonsummermusic.com or contact Shelby at email@example.com or (520) 289-7982.