When the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts held its annual conference in Baltimore last November, the Peabody Prep Outreach Program, which sends talented music and arts teachers into the public schools to work with the city's most disadvantaged children, was named by the guild as a national model for its efforts at Tench Tilghman and Ashburton elementary schools. We expressed the hope then that recognition of these worthy efforts would would spur private and foundation support for expanding such programs.
We are happy to report our hope appears to have been vindicated at Tench Tilghman Elementary School this year. Recently, the East Baltimore school received funding from the Abell Foundation and other groups to expand its experimental K-2 music program, originally sponsored by the Peabody Prep, to grades K-5. Principal Elizabeth L. Turner says this development marks an important step toward making Tench Tilghman the city's first performing arts elementary school.
"The strongest aspect of this change is that music relates to every other aspect of the curriculum," Ms. Turner said. "We are looking forward to increased achievement in the children's overall academic achievement, and especially in math."
In addition to an expanded music program, the school has hired a dance teacher, and will offer art instruction in cooperation with the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Maryland Institute, College of Art. Plans are also under way to develop a drama program. When all the elements are in place, Tench Tilghman will have one of the best arts and music programs in the city.
These efforts are not mere educational "frills." Many studies suggest that art and music instruction are vitally important elements in the education of young children. Teachers report that after music lessons the children return to class more focused, better behaved and with greater self-esteem.
The therapeutic effects of music and art instruction are particularly important to children whose lives away from school allow for little of childhood's untroubled innocence. Many have witnessed shootings, imprisonments and abrupt household moves. For such children, the disciplined freedom of creative expression plays a vital role in fostering mental and emotional well-being.
The arts have an important role to play in public education. Let us hope the students at Tench Tilghman are leading the way in bringing such programs to all city children.