Every now and then a newspaper report writes an extraordinary article providing both clarity and insight to the challenges faced in music education. The New York Times gave the music community a "Christmas Present" when the published the following article.
I have provided an excerpt here but the full article is worth the read.
In order to invent our future... maybe we need to revisit our past!
The crisis of the moment has partly to do with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s announcement last summer that New York City schools would be required to teach the arts, and that principals would be rated annually on their success, much as they are in other subjects. In theory this could put some muscle behind the adventurous curriculum (or blueprint, as it is called) that the city’s Department of Education and a panel of arts consultants drew up in 2004: a kindergarten-through-12th-grade program that envisions choral and instrumental performance, the fostering of musical literacy and the consideration of the role music plays in communities and the world at large. The music proposed for this course was admirably boundary-free, cutting a swath from Beethoven and Puccini through folk songs, spirituals, jazz and pop.
The problem is that the 2004 blueprint is recommended rather than required. Given the paucity of music teachers in the system — there was one music teacher for every 1,200 students in 2006, Education Department officials have said — schools that could execute it in all its glory were few. Exactly how (and how quickly) that can change is unclear.
Mr. Bloomberg has also decreed that the $67.5 million earmarked annually for Project Arts, a financing program started in 1997 by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, will go directly to the schools. The fear is that it will be absorbed by programs other than those for arts education.
That’s what arts organizations are worrying about publicly. But the fact is that Project Arts and grant programs like it have become a dependable gravy train for these groups. In the absence of the teachers and the budgets necessary to offer comprehensive and coherent arts courses, the schools, encouraged and financed by such programs, have formed partnerships with performing groups, charging the ensembles with the task of creating arts programs for children.
Typically that means a few performances for each participating school, dressed up with classroom preparation sessions and specially created handouts. They often include discussions with musicians, who are not usually members of the “partner ensembles” but young “teaching artists.” They are paid fees equal to, and sometimes considerably more than, a classroom teacher’s hourly wage (but a fraction of what a unionized orchestra member would receive).