A symphony of education Arts Excel: Team funding backs up BSO's experiment in using music to teach other subjects.

May 17, 1998

IT'S EASY to see how a musician can help a teacher teach the nonmusical curriculum. Banging a drum can help show the physics of sound waves. Playing a fiddle cleverly can help first graders grasp the concepts of language. Music can convey cultures and periods that make history and literature real.

The recent news story in the Maryland section of The Sun on the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's Arts Excel program captured the imaginations of many people. It told how some 60 musicians, many from the orchestra, are going into 11 schools to help the teaching of subjects other than music.

It began in first, sixth and ninth grades, in five Baltimore City public schools, three Baltimore County public schools, two private schools and one Catholic school. Each of the five years of the pilot program adds three grades to those involved, until kindergarten through 12th grade will be covered.

Its sounds nice and artsy, but is it sound education? The program is being assessed by the Center for Arts Education Research at Teachers College of Columbia University. The idea to create a model that other partnerships can replicate.

So it is worth noting that the considerable funding needed for such an experiment comes from a variety of sources that, like the teachers and pupils involved, transcend normal boundaries.

Of $1,722,500 raised so far, $200,000 comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, a branch of the federal government that is frequently attacked in Congress. The Maryland Department of Education has chipped in $25,000, the city public schools have paid $225,000, Baltimore County public schools $25,000, and the three participating non-public schools $205,772, while foundations, family foundations and private individuals have contributed more than $1 million.

The experiment cuts across racial, religious, subject and age lines, as well as political subdivisions. The broad base of funding is a good match for that.

While one could argue the relative amounts from the public entities (the city is far more generous than the county in relation to the number of schools of each that are involved), the participation of all of them, adding up to less than half the expenditure, makes a great deal of sense.

Pub Date: 5/17/98

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