As a kid in elementary school, I absolutely hated music class. When I got to middle school and the option to take band came along, I didn’t think twice about passing it up. It wasn’t even the least bit appealing, even though I was learning how to play instruments at home. Something about the formalism and the structure was just an absolute turnoff. In my mid-20s, I realized that I knew woefully little about music on any kind of technical theory level and that I really, really wished that I did. While trying to teach myself basic theory, it occurred to me that I’d passed up a very basic and easy step to understanding it all: taking band and paying more attention in elementary music classes.
Music programs are frequently on the chopping block in underfunded and struggling public schools. They’re among the first (if not the first) to be cut when things get tight. Fortunately, there are a few nonprofit programs out there attempting to paper up these widening cracks, varying in scope and focus. Some are corporate in origin, while some come from more of a DIY/punk ethos. All operate on the theory that music is ineffably important and can change – and even save – lives. Here are four of our favorites: