Local scholarship fights music education costs

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The program funds instruments, lessons, and other expenses that can prove costly obstacles

While many parents would take pride in raising the next virtuoso violinist or bandleader, the high cost of musical education can be a barrier for Madison-area families looking to begin teaching the discipline. .

But students in need are not without hope, thanks to a scholarship fund housed by the Monroe Street Arts Center that provides financial assistance to those who would not otherwise have access to funding for such activities. the Claire Aubrey Roberts Scholarship Fund is named after a Madison woman who died of a rare blood disease. It aims to “reflect the joy the arts have played in Claire’s life by nurturing the talents of students whose families may not be able to financially support their artistic endeavours,” according to the MSAC website.

For local families looking to explore an interest in music and art, the scholarship represents an opportunity many would otherwise miss, said Carey Zawlocki, director of the Monroe Street Arts Centre. The lack of musical opportunities for some students, along with the lingering effects of the pandemic has led to a significant increase in scholarship applications in recent months, Zawlocki said.

The impact of studying music on a child’s development can be felt in many areas of their schooling, she said.

“There is a lot of research that supports the fact that music education improves the child as a whole rather than specific academics, but it also increases their standardized test scores and other aspects of education and achievement. school outside of music,” Zawlocki said.

Plus, the individualized approach to music lessons allows students and teachers to create unique relationships not found in a traditional classroom, she said.

“There are a lot of students who will start here at age 4 or 5 and continue with an instructor that they feel connected to for several years, so those instructors have the opportunity to build a relationship with that student over time, which is pretty amazing to see,” she said.

The costs of instruments and lessons often present a financial barrier for families with children interested in music.

But from instrument prices and maintenance to course fees and expenses for teaching materials, the costs of involving a young student in music often present a hurdle, said private music teacher Mark Wurzelbacher.

“There are probably people who would like to have [music] lessons, but decide they can’t because of these mostly true assumptions that it’s a very expensive business and not often subsidized,” Wurzelbacher said.

Entry-level rental plans can cost up to $506 per year for instruments like an alto saxophone and $607 per year for a cello at the Madison Ward-Brodt Music area instrument store. These prices only increase if one is looking to purchase an instrument – ​​as a new percussion kit can cost up to $700 and a new trombone can cost $800 or more. These costs do not include lessons, instructional materials, and accessories such as mouthpieces and cleaning supplies, all of which can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of music education.

Educators such as Madison Metropolitan School District music teacher Anthony Cao recognize these challenges and strive to financially support their students, but have few resources to work without outside help.

“Schools are doing everything they can. As a teacher, I do everything I can,” Cao said.

He noted, however, that teachers cannot do much on their own.

“Our teachers are scrappy and creative thinking of new ways to get their hands on grants and new instruments and fixing old instruments, finding ways for kids to get the things they need, but it’s at the teacher-to-teacher level. We need to work harder systemically to make this stuff happen from the top down,” he said.

Although the Monroe Street Arts Center tries to support as many students as possible, Zawlocki said limited resources may prevent the scholarship fund from accommodating all applicants.

“We are constantly looking for grants and donations and opportunities to fill our scholarship fund so that we can continue to offer it to more and more students,” she said.

Although local programs are working hard to ensure that all students have access to the education they deserve, some recognize that there is still work to be done to make music affordable for everyone. For Cao, he thinks Madison is moving in the right direction.

“I think Madison is doing a really good job,” Cao said. “There are a lot of smart people in the school district who see what the problems are and try to fight them, but there’s always more work to be done.”

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