Seattle Music Partners bridges music education funding gap

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by Heather Graf / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherGrafK5

KING5.com

Posted on June 19, 2013 at 6:17 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 19 at 7:53 PM

Thirty minutes a week.  For fourth and fifth graders in Seattle, that's the only music education time the school system can afford.  Even as the school year comes to a close, a group of dedicated volunteers is working to bridge that gap.

Seattle Music Partners is a non-profit organization that's been in existence for about 13 years.

"What we do at Seattle Music Partners is provide free after school music instruction for 4th and 5th graders in the under served schools in Seattle's Central District," said program executive director Scott Gelband.

He and his staff recruit talented musicians who are high school aged or older to teach the lessons.  The program also provides each student with an instrument, free of charge.

"We just want to give them that opportunity to fall in love with music and carry it with them for the rest of their lives," Gelband said. 

During one of the last lessons of the year, ten-year-old DaMar Johnson's performance on the violin is proof enough the program is working.

His tutor, a soon-to-be-graduating high school senior named Omari Abdul-Alim, has also become a mentor, a role model, and a friend.

"I just think that maybe when I get older, like he is right now, that I can probably play like that," said DaMar.

Abdul-Alim will head to college in the fall, to study music.

Gelband says the program seeks to even the playing field between kids in under served elementary schools and more affluent ones when it comes to music education.

For instance, he says, in some more affluent schools, parents can contribute money through PTSA and create more music education opportunities for their kids.

"So you have this divide between the students who've had those rich music learning opportunities, and then students at lower income elementary schools, where families haven't been able to contribute, but they all end up in middle school together," he said.

For him, the biggest evidence that the program is making a difference can be seen when the 4th and 5th graders who take part in Seattle Music Partners make it to high school.

"We've had students who've worked with us in 4th and 5th grade come back as tutors or mentors with us years later," he said.  "And for me, that's a win, that's a real win."

If you're a musician interested in tutoring, check out the website for Seattle Music Partners.

It is a non-profit organization that depends entirely on donations and volunteer efforts.  Already, it's served almost one thousand kids.

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