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Closing the Musical Opportunity Gap in City Schools

As a supporter of SpreadMusicNow, you already know that too many students across America are denied the opportunity to enjoy an active music life.

Recently, we at the Yale School of Music released a Declaration on Equity in Music for City Students. It is the result of two years’ work, including a national symposium where expert participants shaped the document into what it is today: a national call to action to bring music to students in America’s cities.

Based on the values of dignity and inclusion, the declaration calls for “every student in every city in America to have access to a robust and active music life.” We frame music as a social, cultural, and educational right for all people and demonstrate that access to and participation in an active music life is one way to affirm human dignity and create a more inclusive, vibrant society.

The benefits of studying music are applicable and relevant to students in urban, suburban, and rural areas. We have focused on city students because 1) our knowledge and expertise comes from our programs in New Haven; 2) there is a lack of public policy focused specifically on city students and the role that music can play in their lives; and 3) cities are home to large numbers of students, evolved professional music organizations that can support the work of schools, and sizable school districts striving to create models of educational success.

Many of you reading this know that a school without music is a sad school, while a school that helps each student enjoy an active music life is a vibrant institution that students want to attend. We argue that every student deserves that experience. 

The declaration’s companion website serves as a framework to guide and inspire action in every community. We hope it will be used to:

We know this is an achievable endeavor: a number of cities are already making progress. Our website will tell their stories so that the whole country can learn from the work of others. But ultimately, education is under local control, and the most effective actions will be determined by each city’s unique needs, politics, institutions, and populations.

We hope you will join us and SpreadMusicNow as we pursue our common passion of ensuring that children have access to a robust and active music life.

Now is the best time to do this work. We need a “win” for children, and access to music study for young people can be a positive rallying point for all of us. So, read and share the declaration. Take action in your community. Share your city’s progress with us. Let’s get to work.

Michael Yaffe

Associate Dean,  Yale School of Music

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