Education

Why LAUSD students and celebrity alumni are partnering to raise more money for the arts

Over 230 students from around the district rehearsed for the concert on stage at The Music Center, including Legacy VAPA High School's All Star Choir.
Over 230 students from around the district rehearsed for the concert on stage at The Music Center, including Legacy VAPA High School's All Star Choir.
Carla Javier/KPCC

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LAUSD budgeted over $31 million for arts education this year to do things like pay and train arts teachers and to buy arts supplies – but that isn't enough to cover all of the district's arts related expenses like providing musical instruments to all students who want to learn music and bringing students on field trips to local studios and museums.

"Since I arrived at LAUSD in 2014, the arts branch budget has more than doubled," the district's Arts Education Branch executive director Rory Pullens explained. "But it still does not compare to what [the arts budget was] 2007, pre-economic downturn."

To help cover the gap, the district has enlisted the help of celebrity alumni, including actor siblings Patricia and David Arquette and singer-songwriter Siedah Garrett, for a fundraiser at the Music Center.

But, the main stars of the show are actually current LAUSD students. 

https://twitter.com/VAPA_at_Legacy/status/984287869563842560

Over 230 students are featured in the program, dancing, drumming, singing, marching, and performing spoken word poetry. 

https://twitter.com/carlamjavier/status/984484567795953664

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One of them is Van Nuys High sophomore Jarrett Elam. Elam said he first learned to dance in a class offered at his school in sixth grade. He'll dance on The Music Center stage as part of the concert. 

"It's the biggest honor I've ever experienced. Being here, looking at the stage, everything is just so mesmerizing," he said. "It's like straight out of a movie, or a dream or something."

Van Nuys High students Alexis Davidson and Jarrett Elam practice on the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage.
Van Nuys High students Alexis Davidson and Jarrett Elam practice on the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage.
Carla Javier/KPCC

Van Nuys junior Alexis Davidson takes the stage with him.

"I would never have expected to be dancing here. I've seen a few performances here," she said. "It's cool to be up there performing yourself."

Pullens said the district will use the funds raised at the concert to supply students with instruments, and to repair broken ones, and to create "portable performance kits" with sound and light equipment so schools with outdated auditoriums can put on student performances anywhere, among other projects.