PlayUSA: Promoting Access to Music Education
Now in its first year, Carnegie Hall’s PlayUSA provides grants and programmatic support to a range of instrumental music education projects across the country designed to reach low income and underserved students on a local level. In addition to financial resources and training, participating organizations have access to a larger network of professionals—including Carnegie Hall staff members—who share best practices in the music education field.
“In launching PlayUSA, we are partnering with organizations that are helping to address the need for more high-quality instrumental music instruction, serving students who normally do not have access to it,” says Sarah Johnson, director of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. “We not only want to support each program, but also create a robust community of organizations across the country focused on this work so we can learn from one another and make note of successes and milestones achieved in each PlayUSA location.”
"... we are partnering with organizations that are helping to address
the need for more high-quality instrumental music instruction,
serving students who normally do not have access to it."
Three projects have been selected for the inaugural year of PlayUSA, benefiting students in Texas, Ohio, and Louisiana.
The Tocando After School Music Program is the most recent education project of the El Paso Symphony Orchestra. Tocando (“to play”) is designed to engage disconnected youth at elementary schools through intensive music instruction, academic tutoring, and nutritional snacks. Funding from PlayUSA supports the expansion of Tocando to a second location in El Paso, while also providing for teaching artists and professional development.
In Ohio, the Columbus All City Orchestra is the result of a long-term partnership between the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and Columbus City Schools. PlayUSA has allowed the CSO to expand access to sustained, high-quality music instruction for underserved students through a pilot program that provides private lessons with CSO musicians. “It is our hope that by offering private lessons,” says CSO’s Director of Education Jeani Stahler, “we will be able to increase the number of students auditioning for and performing in our youth orchestra, ensuring that the ensemble is representative of our entire community.”
The third project selected for PlayUSA’s first year is Music for Life, an initiative of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) in which disadvantaged youth are offered the opportunity to study music intensively throughout the year in private and small-group settings with both LPO musicians and peers from the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestras. In addition to offsetting costs for music stands, books, and fees to engage artist mentors, PlayUSA provides instruments for students in the New Orleans area.
“These projects and organizations,” Johnson concludes, “are focused on providing sustained training and music education opportunities to a diverse group of talented and motivated students, placing musical instruments in the hands of young people with limited access.”