The West Claremont Center for Music and the Arts’ (WCCMA) Youth Arts Enrichment (YAE) Initiative is making a big impact on the lives of local students this summer. An unprecedented number of youth are participating in lessons this summer, and for many of them this would not be possible without YAE’s financial aid and instrument lending programs that are made possible by donors and grants like a recent Claremont Savings Bank Foundation award. When people think about the big problems that the community struggles with, very few of think of music and arts are one of those opportunities that can be life changing for students of all backgrounds. The mentorship and level of involvement in programs can actually help to improve those difficult areas proactively. For students living in poverty music and arts in particularly may be a source of magic and joy in their lives that puts a larger world at their fingertips, despite a daily life that may include a struggle just to provide basic necessities.
This year more than 20 students have committed to taking summer lessons, attending workshops, playing music with other students, and doing community service to enrich themselves and the community. Studies have shown that youth who participate in music learn vital soft skills that are valuable in for employment later in life, tend to see their academics improve, and tend to be less likely to be involved in dangerous activities. There’s also a belief that these types of programs can contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty for some students. Beyond those studies though, if you are there working with children it is easy to see the huge effect. “The kids that we teach are so enthusiastic, and there’s nothing better than seeing their eyes light up when they master a difficult song, or hear a performance that touches their heart. It’s not limited to classical, popular music, jazz, or any single area because it’s about learning and exploring. There are very few ways we can describe it other than magical,” said Executive Director Melissa Richmond.
In the past 4 years the YAE program has been successful in providing instruments and workshops to local schools, and for 2015 the program is projected to have the greatest impact yet through more individual continuous education. The fall will bring high caliber education programs that will be designed to make sure that money will not be a barrier to participation. However, the program’s reach is at great risk. Recent funding cuts have greatly limited the capacity of the program, and a need for additional support has become dire. Of the students participating, nearly 50% need full or partial tuition aid, several need instruments, and some need other accessories. While currently WCCMA has enough instruments for all the participants, some need repairs or to have parts replaced, and they anticipate that this fall they may not have enough instruments or funding to meet the needs of students with no other hope to be able to participate in school programs. “It breaks our heart to think that we may soon have to tell students that so desperately want to have this opportunity – for some an escape from a tough daily life – that we just don’t have the $100 needed to get them what they need,” said Richmond.
Individuals and the community can help bring these youth opportunities that may impact their lives forever though. Monetary donations can be sent to the WCCMA with information available at http://www.wcc-ma.org/donate, and instruments may also be donated. Those wishing for more information about these programs can visit wcc-ma.org, or contact WCCMA at firstname.lastname@example.org or ph. 802.738.0022.