Staff members at the Fender Museum of Music and the Arts in Corona, California, hope funds from an on-line auction of celebrity-painted "art guitars" will help them build a larger music center and let them provide free music lessons for a greater number of kids. The museum's program is one of many nationwide private initiatives to support music education. Included: Links to national organizations that promote music education.
NOTE TO READERS: This article is from deep in our archive. The content of the article is dated, and some links in the article are no longer active. We have left the article on the live site because we believe the information in it might have "idea value" for educators. We apologize for the links that are no longer live.
You're looking for that perfect something to give the decor a lift. Would you enjoy owning an electric guitar hand painted by Dustin Hoffman? Perhaps a Darth-Vader-theme guitar created by the voice of the Dark Side himself, James Earl Jones, strikes your fancy.
The money from the sale of those and other Fender "art guitars" will help support the Fender Museum of Music and the Arts in Corona, California, a music education program for children. Proceeds will also go to the American Cancer Society.
Get ready for some bidding competition, though. The assortment of celebrity-painted Fender guitars will be up for auction on eBay from November 4 to 14. Porcelain miniatures of about a dozen of the guitars, made by Cast Art, will also be auctioned to benefit the two organizations. A live auction is scheduled for November 14.
The auction is called Heart Strings: Making Music, Creating Hope. It is sponsored by Cast Art Industries of California, which hopes to raise about $2 million.
For two-and-a-half years, the Fender museum has offered free instrumental lessons to children aged seven to 17 who live in middle- and-low-income families. The program is called Kids Rock Free. Students from the program will perform at the live auction November 14 at the Hard Rock Caf in Los Angeles.
Kids Rock Free began after the Corona-Norco (California) Unified School District cut its music curriculum. Currently, 400 children are enrolled in the Fender program; 2,300 more are on a waiting list!
Museum staff members plan to use the auction proceeds to help fund the construction of a larger music center, slated for completion by 2003. The larger center will enable the program to accommodate between 1,500 and 2,000 youngsters, according to John Page, the museum's executive director.
"When we started the program, [the Corona-Norco Unified School District] had three music educators for 18,000 elementary school kids," Page told Education World. In the past several years, the district's music staff has grown gradually, maybe in part because of the student interest in the Fender program, he said. "Maybe [school officials] took a little notice," Page said. "I think they saw how important it is."
"John Page certainly pointed out the critical need for music lessons," said Sherry Hall, the school district's coordinator of elementary-level learning support services. "We truly appreciate Fender's services. We are trying to tie in more with them. They also are providing some guitar instruction after school -- they are a wonderful resource to us."
The Fender program helped the school district fill a void in 1992, Hall said. Corona-Norco had eight vocal music teachers for K-6 students in 1993. Budget reductions cut the number of teachers from eight to one.
As of 1999, the number of vocal music teachers providing weekly music instruction to students has increased to five. In part, the increase is due to an improved budget climate and a renewed emphasis on arts education in California, Hall told Education World.
The number of kids in the Corona-Norco district taking instrumental lessons also grew; only kids in fourth through sixth grade can participate, though. The system has five elementary-level instrumental music teachers.
Joseph Lamond, executive director of the American Music Conference (AMC), a non-profit organization that promotes music education, praised Fender's program. He noted that it is just one of many private sector efforts to supplement and help restore music education programs.
AMC's parent organization, the International Music Products Association, funds summer workshops for school music teachers to learn to teach group guitar lessons, Lamond added. "The AMC wants to see music education at all levels in school."
Advocates of music education say studies show that involvement with music helps children's cognitive development and helps youngsters develop self-esteem and self-discipline.
"The message is getting out that school music programs are in trouble," Lamond told Education World. "There is real momentum -- a lot of different companies are doing what they can. In a way, it's kind of sad these guys have to step up and do this, but it's a measure taken out of necessity."
On the national level, programs such as the VH1 Save The Music Foundation collect instruments and money for public school music programs. They have also focused attention on the issue, according to Lamond.
The Fender Museum of Music and the Arts offers lessons in guitar, bass guitar, violin, piano, drums, and vocal performance and sponsors a combo band. Lessons are held weekly for 60 to 90 minutes, in eight-week cycles. "We teach traditional music in a non-traditional way," said Page. "We try to get [kids] into a band after a year." Students also learn to record music and burn compact discs.
When the new music center is completed, the museum staff plans to add lessons in woodwind and brass instruments, dance, theater, and multicultural music programs, according to Page.
Student interest in the outside efforts helps draw attention back to school music programs, Lamond added. "I think it's having a cumulative affect on raising awareness of how important this is."
Ellen R. Delisio
Copyright Â© 2005 Education World