Education

One Anaheim school district aims to get all students into music classes

File photo: Anaheim City School District elementary students test out their instruments. The district now plans to offer music classes to all of its students.
File photo: Anaheim City School District elementary students test out their instruments. The district now plans to offer music classes to all of its students.
Brian Brooks/Anaheim City School District

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Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait will join with the Anaheim City School District today to announce an ambitious goal: music instruction for every student in the district.

It's a major change for the school district that, not too long ago, offered no music instruction to its 19,000 elementary students. Even though the school district’s headquarters is just two miles from Disneyland, a hub of entertainment and major magnet for tourists, music was not a priority.

RELATED: Dorothy Rose's crusade to bring music to Anaheim schools

The district is a poor one: 86 percent of its students are living with family incomes so low they qualify for free or reduced lunches.

Then two years ago, when Linda Wagner joined the district as its superintendent, she began addressing the lack of music classes in the schools

"The community was starving for music and so there was such a need for instruments and such a need for instructors and almost no money that we said we have to find out a way to fund this," she said.

Now, many fundraising efforts later, three of 24 district schools have music instruction taught during the school day by full-time music teachers, the gold standard in music education. There are also 18 after-school orchestras. Wagner plans to ramp up music instruction in the district, reaching all students within three years. 

Sixth-grader Shaelyn Nguyen, age 12, is among the students getting music instruction during the school day this year. She is learning to play the piano. 

"It’s really fun. We get more opportunities to show some talent to other people," she said.

The district still doesn’t have any art, dance or theater teachers. Instruction in all four arts subjects, including music, is what's called for in state law for first through sixth-graders. 

But Wagner says one step at a time. The district is currently providing professional development for classroom teachers in the visual arts. 

"We may not be able to afford art teachers yet," she said. "But we're trying to teach our teachers to teach their own students in the arts."

The mayor's announcement on music instruction is scheduled during a district arts festival at Lincoln Elementary School, 1413 E. Broadway in Anaheim. The event, open to the public, will take place from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.