Every week for the past four years, nearly 400 children and adults who live in Detroit have been making music at Michigan State University – without ever leaving their neighborhood.
Located on Woodward Avenue, the MSU Community Music School-Detroit (CMS-Detroit) fits right into an urban lifestyle that values the arts and which has, for more than a century, cultivated opportunities for creative selfexpression. In fact, the music school is right next door to the Wayne State’s Bonstelle Theatre, a 1200-seat Broadway-style theatre for undergraduate performances, and it is not far from the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Detroit Institute of Arts.
According to Rhonda Buckley, associate dean for Outreach and Engagement and executive director of the program, MSU’s music offerings were developed with broad community input from local musical and educational institutions and the CMS-Detroit Community Advisory Committee.
“Our programs are designed to complement, but not overlap, with existing musical activities available in the area,” she explains. “With continuing economic pressure on local school systems and the resulting elimination of music and the arts, community music schools such as ours have a significant responsibility to help develop the talent and creativity that has traditionally fueled American culture. Detroit is a prominent example of that innovation and spontaneous energy.”
Making a Joyful Noise
MSU’s Detroit Community Music School’s programs are truly open – and welcoming – to people of all ages, abilities and incomes. On an average day, infants, retirees, and troupes of teens can be seen arriving in cars, on the bus, in strollers, and in wheelchairs ready to learn how to play new instruments, sing, and sometimes just move to the music.
The range of programs offered to the community tells the story:
- From birth to age 7, children can participate in Early Childhood Music, where they can develop tonal and rhythmic awareness, and build physical, interpersonal and language skills.
- Children ages 9 to 18 can learn to play the flute, clarinet, trumpet, oboe, bassoon, saxophone, French horn, trombone, baritone, tuba, percussion, violin, viola, cello, piano or guitar in the Aspiring Musicians Program (AMP).
- Spartan Teen Jazz provides jazz education and performance opportunities to youth ages 11 to 19.
- The school’s Music Therapy Clinical Services provide a therapeutic lifeline for persons with special needs, including severe mental and physical disabilities.
- Adult Music Education at CMS-Detroit includes group lessons in piano, guitar and string instruments. Learners range in age from college students to septuagenarians.
One of the most fun and socially active programs is the school’s New Horizons Bands (NHB). Beginning and Advanced bands provide opportunities for adults and teens to learn to play an instrument for the very first time, or to bring together nonprofessional or former musicians who want to connect with other musicians or even retired music educators. Band members give free performances at senior centers, churches and community special events, giving back to their community through their music.
Music Plus Community
Last year, some 2000 people attended MSU’s Community Music School events in Detroit, and that enthusiastic support has been growing each year since the school was established. New registrations are growing significantly each year as well, indicating an increasing demand for the kind of high-quality, low-cost educational opportunities that the school offers.
Fortunately, the donations that support the school’s outreach mission have been growing each year, too. Foundations, corporations and a long list of committed individuals have recognized the value of having a vibrant – and accessible – music community in Detroit.
The school also has collaborated with a wide variety of community partners to help sustain its activities. From local school systems, youth and senior organizations, to hospitals, social service agencies, and cultural institutions, the school and its supporters have been able to leverage their resources to continuously introduce new families and individuals to the benefits of music learning.
While Buckley is pleased with the progress that has been made so far, she sees great potential for serving the Detroit community in the future. “We provide access to the teaching expertise of MSU College of Music faculty and student mentors in a setting that is rich with the musical tradition that Detroit has long been celebrated for. Efforts like this are making a valuable contribution to the intellectual growth of this community and it is great to be part of that.”