When schools have their budgets pinched, they must adjust their curriculum accordingly. Unfortunately, the arts usually takes a great hit during these challenging times.
“It’s very unfortunate but it’s always the arts that suffer,” said Michelle Golden. “And the arts are the vitality behind a child’s natural progression."
Golden, the executive director for an after-school nonprofit coined Books, Brushes and Bands for Education has seen her program grow from hundreds of students and dwindle to 60 percent in some cases.
“Our program's focus is on the underserved communities but is open to everyone,” said Golden. “Unfortunately, many of our parents pull their children when times get tough. Some come back but many promising students never do.”
Golden and her organization are currently at the height of their struggle as they are at about 50 students for their chorale, band and advanced band classes. One of their most popular classes called Let’s Sing introduces elementary aged students, as young as 4, to the basics like reading music, understanding pitch and harmonizing.
“It’s great to provide a solid foundation and the younger the better,” said Michael Cierski, Let’s Sing director. “What we are teaching at that age is for our students to develop a sense of pitch and how music can fit into their everyday lives. It's a huge confidence builder, which has a carryover effect.”
Gary native Crystal Taliefero is a powerful testament to the wonders of music education. Picking up her older brother Charlie’s instruments, she garnered the attention of her sibling/mentor who would later recruit her into his band. Taliefero, a notable multi-instrumentalist, would spend much of her adult life being a sought-after musician.
Taliefero has performed with a “who’s who” of legendary musicians that includes Faith Hill, John Mellencamp, Brooks and Dunn, Joe Cocker, Bruce Springsteen and has been a staple in Billy Joel’s band since 1989.
“Music is so powerful,” said Taliefero. “It reaches and speaks to the soul. Learning and performing music as a child were the first steps towards independent thinking and making choices. I was encouraged and challenged very young and quickly learned to never give up on my dreams.”
Taliefero claims her success was the direct outcome of encouragement and challenge at a young age by her family who taught her never to give up her dreams.
Last spring, Taliefero and a group of colleagues launched Nashville-based Rodidah Productions, an all-female music entertainment/production company specializing in encouraging young musicians in the industry to pursue their dreams. Taliefero also is launching a nonprofit aimed at mentoring children with career aspirations in the arts.
Shanoor Devarj said his father encouraged him to use his emotions to create. The Armenian-American artist channeled the devastation of Sept. 11 for a series of masterpieces he refers to as Extreme Conditions.
“Ever since I was a child my father challenged me to process things and with his words, I was able to take devastation and translate it onto the canvas,” said Devarj. “Growing up, a box of crayons were like gold.”
Devarj, executive creative director of Devarj Design Agency, is quick to point out that many good artists, musicians and writers must be simplistic and honest to make their work have meaning.
Devarj will showcase his work in April during an Early Learning Partnership fundraiser and speak to community leaders about investing in children and encouraging their development.
“No matter what socioeconomic background children come from, they can achieve greatness if they are given the tools and support,” said Devarj. “Teaching children the ability to develop a continual love for learning is vital to their overall growth."