Music education in Los Angeles Unified got a $33,600 boost Wednesday when the nonprofit Little Kids Rock unveiled its latest push to bring popular music to students: it's providing 600 new instruments for 20 schools.
Among the winners were Pio Pico Middle School, in mid-city Los Angeles, which received 25 acoustic guitars. The school's vibrant music program is funded almost entirely through outside money.
"We're getting gear that we need," said teacher Randy Rodarte, who leads Pio Pico's music program. He said district arts funding isn't enough and he relies on outside help. "Programs just cannot survive. It's essential at this point."
Little Kids Rock said it provides instruments and teacher training in about 130 Los Angeles Unified schools, reaching around 9,400 students. The nonprofit operates in schools across the country.
It emphasizes teaching kids popular music — Pharrell and Lady Gaga songs have recently showed up in their teaching materials. It developed special programing for L.A. Unified in cooperation with district arts education administrators.
Little Kids Rock provides support after the teachers have been trained. The district owns the instruments - electric guitars and drum sets are among the items it's donated - and helps with some of the repairs, according to Scott Burstein, director of music education for Little Kids Rock.
The funding announced Wednesday comes from Southern California Acura Dealers in partnership with EcoMedia, an advertising branch of CBS.
At Pio Pico Middle School, and many other schools throughout the L.A. Unified, district funded music access is extremely limited.
"Without outside funding this program would look very bleak," said Miranda Ra'Oof, the school's principal. "I am very excited about today."
The school has about 600 students, all of whom get music instruction at some point, according to Ra'Oof.
L.A. Unified is coming back from years of harsh arts education budget cuts. District administrators have proposed boosting arts education funding by nearly $16 million in the next three years. But a detailed funding plan has yet to be approved by the school board, despite a unanimous school board vote in October 2012 that designated the arts as a core subject. That measure sought to give all L.A. Unified students access to the arts.