Wu Announces Partnership With NEC, Looks To Expand Musical Education for Boston Students

Special to the Sun

Mayor Michelle Wu announced on Monday, Dec. 19, a partnership with New England Conservatory (NEC) to substantially increase access to high-quality music education for children, according to a press release.

The initiative, funded by a $14.5 million grant secured by NEC, is a significant expansion of resources to provide young people music education that is instrumental to their academic growth, especially students who don’t typically have access to arts opportunities. The Mayor made the announcement alongside Boston Public Schools Superintendent Mary Skipper at the Ellis Early Learning Center in the South End. “Performing arts are a crucial pillar of growth for our young people, an outlet for individual expression and community building,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “I’m so grateful to NEC for providing both the funds and the professional expertise to help Boston’s young people explore new talents. This program will deliver music instruction and instruments to our students that will make a difference in their lives long after their school days end.”

“New England Conservatory’s commitment will change lives across the City,” said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Mary Skipper. “We’re incredibly grateful to Mayor Wu, NEC and our entire village for helping our youngest students experience the joy of music education.” “This extraordinary generosity will change music education for the better in this City,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Jeri Robinson. “This partnership with the City will fuel students’ musical dreams and give them the opportunity to follow their passion, wherever it might lead them.”

“Music education is transformational for children, and supports their holistic learning—enhancing cognitive skills, activating creativity, and fostering connection, engagement, and confidence. Increasing equitable access to music education for students in the City of Boston will create new learning opportunities that we are excited to offer,” said NEC President Andrea Kalyn. “We look forward to providing music education to Boston students from their earliest-years through graduation and beyond.”

The partnership will start by expanding offerings for Pre-K through early elementary school students and increasing scholarships to NEC Prep by 150 percent. The pilot program to increase access to early music education will begin in the Ellis Early Learning and ABCD Head Start program. The new pilot will include: new courses through NEC Prep that establish a strong foundation in music for young learners; financial aid to remove barriers for students across the City; access to instruments that students can use at no-cost or borrow rent-free; and NEC Prep faculty and staff support to foster the program, including a new early childhood director and professional training for faculty working with students Boston Public Schools has expanded music education specifically with the addition of the MassCore graduation requirement.

This gift will create more access and opportunity for students across the City. These expanded NEC Prep scholarships will be offered starting for Fall 2023, and interested students and families can sign up for more information at www.necmusic.edu/prep/resources.

“Ellis Early Learning Center is thrilled and deeply grateful to be part of this exciting program with the City of Boston and the New England Conservatory,” said Lauren Cook, CEO of Ellis Early Learning Center. “This extraordinary music partnership will bring high-quality, developmentally appropriate, consistent music programming to our City’s youngest learners.”

“Studies show that consistent exposure to music through learning to play a musical instrument or taking voice lessons strengthens critical academic and social-emotional skills in all children, including preschoolers,” said ABCD President and CEO Sharon Scott-Chandler. “We are delighted that the New England Conservatory of Music will bring its expertise and its humanity to ABCD Head Start, a very special early education program that offers comprehensive services to Boston’s under-resourced children and families.”

NEC has extensive experience developing high-quality musical programming for musically interested students. NEC Preparatory School (NEC Prep) provides more than 1,600 students across New England, from beginners to advanced young musicians, with lessons, classes, and ensembles every week. It is one of the largest preparatory programs of its kind in the nation.

This work adds another dimension to NEC’s relationship with the City of Boston and builds upon the successful NEC Community Performances and Partnerships (CPP) Program, one of the premier programs in the nation for engaging conservatory students with their community through meaningful partnership activities and high-quality training. CPP interacts with close to 21,000 people through over 600 events annually across ages, neighborhoods, ethnicities, and financial status in Boston and beyond. This announcement builds on Mayor Wu’s commitment to supporting early education and investing in Boston’s youngest residents.  In November, Mayor Wu announced the recipients of grants totaling $7,000,000 in ARPA funding, designed to address early childhood workforce challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also in November, Mayor Wu announced another allocation of APRA funds to support child care centers providing early childhood programming to essential workers working non-traditional hours, support child care workers by providing them immediate compensation relief, and provide training and technical assistance to child care centers. Recipients of this assistance included ABCD and Ellis Early Learning Center.

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