A group of South Bay music students, headed by a Peninsula High senior, has taken up the cause of supporting a burgeoning music program at a Los Angeles high school.
The 40 or so young musicians, who perform for free at underprivileged schools and comprise the South Bay Chapter of the Music Students Service League. They recently answered a call for help to provide instruments for a band program at the King Drew Magnet High School for Science and Medicine. The school had almost nothing in the way of music education.
“Being from Palos Verdes, I feel like a lot of kids take their music education for granted,” said Yuna Kim, the Peninsula High senior who heads MSSL. “So just telling them about this school that doesn’t have its own music program opened their eyes.”
At the end of each semester, the group takes stock of the money left over from membership fees and fundraising and, after a year, they had enough to cover the nearly $400 to buy a used trumpet, Kim said.
The students responded to a letter from Pamela Woodlief-McCullough, a math teacher turned music instructor at the magnet school. Woodlief-McCullough put out the call to local groups asking for help to string together everything from tubas and trumpets to flutes and drums.
“When students expressed an interest in forming a band on campus, there was no faculty member in place to take this charge,” Woodlief-McCullough said in the letter.
So she took up the effort, only to realize 70 pupils were interested in joining the program, and the school didn’t have nearly enough instruments to go around. During a first, informal year, students shared what was available and put on several performances.
Now the school is organizing a zero-period class this fall for those interested in a formal band course. Upward of 90 students will be in the program, but the school still lacks enough instruments for all of them.
So far, Woodlief-McCullough has received 33 donated instruments; the program still needs between 20 and 40 more, she said.
“Right now (the students are) sharing a lot, and it’s gross,” she said.
Beth Howell, a Rolling Hills piano teacher who leads the South Bay chapter of the Music Teachers Association of California, which is associated with the MSSL, said for a school like King Drew that hosts underserved students, a school-run band is crucial.
“In this particular school they don’t have the ability very often ... to study music privately, so it’s more important that you have a student run (program),” she said.
Kim, who has been playing instrument since she was a young child, said music education is often ignored or passed over for funding in favor of other programs. That shouldn’t be the case, she said.
“Honestly, music is something that adds so much to students’ life, not only with the academic benefits but also with the culture that you get, the emphasis on being involved in school and just fostering a community for the students,” she said.
Music education adds an important element to a campus, even one like King Drew that already has a strong academic program, Howell added. The South Bay music students plan to deliver the trumpet later this month.
“This type of artistic endeavor allows creativity, allows success in an area that the student doesn’t have the ability to do their own thing in their own time,” Howell said.