(written version)


Dorothy Marschak, President CHIME (Community Help In Music Education)

February 15, 20005



CHIME’s mission is to mobilize community resources to promote and provide music education for DC public schoolchildren, during and outside of school. Our goals include getting public support and funding to provide quality music education in the required curriculum for all DC public schools, enriched and supported by community resources. In addition to our advocacy, we have provided free instruction, performances, instrument donations and teacher training that have reached directly over 12,000 students and 250 teachers in over 50 schools in the 7 years our non-profit has been operating with no paid staff.


However,  no matter how much support and enrichment CHIME and all the other arts organizations that do outreach to the DC public schools provide, they cannot substitute for a systematic music curriculum available to all our students or compensate for the current unequal and inadequate state of DC school music education.


Purpose of this testimony:

While DCPS has many needs included in the Unfunded Educational Investments list, my testimony is limited to the need for funding music education beyond the unpredictable amount it will receive under the weighted student average formula in the basic budget.  We know the importance you, as a trained musician, give to music education, and hope you will be as strong an advocate for enabling DC youth to benefit from it, as you have been for bringing baseball to DC. You based your advocacy of public funding for baseball on its contributions to economic development and civic pride. Developing skills in our youth that prepare for good careers, as participation in music ensembles has been shown to do, is arguably the most cost-effective form of economic development. School bands and other ensembles, properly funded, could once again be a major source of civic pride and national recognition.  Our school bands used to win national awards, as Ballou did for us this year. And as you did for baseball, we believe that with your leadership the private sector could  play a significant role in providing the needed support to bring back our bands and give all our children the opportunity to enrich their lives and fulfillment with music education.


The current state of music education in DCPS:

Under the weighted student average system, maintained in the current proposed budget, whether or not music education is offered in a school is up to the discretion of the Principal, despite the fact that it is declared to be a core subject in the NCLB Act, and by Superintendent Janey.

According to statistics provided by the DCPS Director of Music:

Out of 107 elementary schools and education centers:

1.      Only 80 schools, serving 63% of our students, have a music teacher.  That doesn’t mean, of course, that every child in these schools receives even one hour of music instruction a week.  

2.      Distribution by Ward of students with a music teacher varies from over 90% in Wards 2 and 3 to less than 40% in Wards 6 and 7.

3.      Out of the 80 schools with a music teacher, only 18 (or 23%) have a band or string program—that is 17% of all schools, with, of course, a much smaller % of student participation.  This means that few of our inner city children currently have access to instrumental instruction, which has been shown to be so beneficial to academic achievement, character development and later career success. Since an early start in music instruction is necessary to qualify for a good musical career, we can only wonder at the loss of potential that is lost through this lack of access by our inner-city children.


There are fewer schools offering music in 2004-5 than there were last year, in a steadily deteriorating trend since music stopped being centrally funded in 1992. There has been no DCPS money allocated to instrument purchases since then. Even with help to some schools from programs such as VH1, many  schools with instrumental programs deplore the inadequacy and bad condition of the instruments they have to work with.  Our celebrated Shaw Jr. High School Band has had no new uniforms since 1980—like the uniforms at most other High Schools, second-hand uniforms are held together with safety pins and glue.   There is no reason to believe that the situation will not become worse next year, unless funding is provided for the music and art component  in the “Unfunded Educational Investments” part of the proposed budget.


Reasons for providing additional funding for music education in the 2006 Budget

What is missing from most political discussion about public education is what the goals of it should be: NCLB, by stressing test scores measuring basic literacy and numeracy above all else, focuses, in my opinion, on means rather than ends and woefully short-changes our children. Of course our children should be expected to know how to read and reason mathematically. But for what purposes? And is that all we want them to know as they go out into our complex world? I suggest they should learn these tools in order to:

·        Become familiar with their cultural, historical and scientific heritages.

·        Learn to think critically.

·        Understand public issues and become good citizens.

·        Realize their potential in future work and leisure activities.

It is the intent of this testimony to demonstrate that music education has benefits that promote academic performance and contribute to the achievement of these goals, and therefore should be considered as part of a core education, and funded accordingly.


Benefits from including and funding music in the core curriculum:

1. Learning to sing or play an instrument helps children in reading and math.

The connection between music and math learning is well known: no one can play music without having an understanding of fractions, for example. Until modern times music and math were considered to be two branches of the same subject. Inspired music teachers like Mr. Hoover have told me how some of their almost illiterate students have been motivated to learn to read music, and from there to improve their reading of texts. There is a transference in the eye movements and other skills needed to read music and to read texts, from the point of view of technique, and developing an interest and sense of accomplishment in music can provide motivation for academic effort, particularly if participation in the band is made conditional on academic performance.

2. Participating in music ensembles promotes skills and character traits that not only contribute to academic success but are needed to obtain desirable jobs (not just in music), to be good parents and citizens, and to enrich quality of life.  These include self-discipline, listening and paying attention, teamwork, persistence and  expressive ability.

3. Achievement in learning to play an instrument (including voice) provides an authentic sense of self-worth, especially for non-native speakers of English and those with low academic achievement, that can lead to developing belief in the ability to succeed in school, given the effort.

4. Musical ensembles provide a positive alternative to gangs and other anti-social activities.

We can provide examples of students who have been turned around by the opportunity to belong to a “positive gang”, which is what a band could be considered to be—socially as well as academically. 

5. Development of performance skills provides employment opportunities for students from gigs while still in school, as well as later.

6. School bands and other ensembles, when supported, are a source of school, neighborhood and civic pride.  The achievements of the Ballou Band this year are an example of the national recognition many of our school bands used to achieve. I hear that Ballou, which last year graced our front pages with one disaster after another, is now bursting with pride, and now everyone wants to be in the band.  It used to be like “Drumline” here in DC, where being in the band was at least as prestigious as being on the team. I have attached documentation from Charles Hankerson, the music teacher who built the national award-winning Woodson Band, trained many students who later became musicians and music teachers, and organized summer band camps for 10 years in DC and an All-City Band, about those  former “glory days”, which we hope to bring back. With this goal in mind, CHIME has formed a partnership with the Anacostia Museum and American University, for a project called Banding Together-Then and Now, to document the role DCPS bands used to play in creating school and neighborhood pride and fostering the personal and career development of their participants. It will consist of oral histories, an exhibition, a documentary and educational outreach events.

7. Exposure to many forms of music and different musical traditions not only enriches students by introducing them to the best that human cultures, including their own, have produced, but can show them the interdependence between different cultures and traditions. Much history and geography can be taught through tracing the way musical instruments and forms have been spread through trade, migration, colonization and travel. Music is a means of communication that transcends all social and linguistic boundaries, because it speaks directly to our feelings.  

8. Without arts education there will not be future patrons of the arts.  Who is going to support all those new performing venues that have been constructed recently, with the help of city funding,  if  our new generations are never exposed to any art forms except those in the commercial pop culture? We are already losing our jazz and classical radio programs, and those patronizing our concert halls and theaters are predominantly white and graying. What kind of country will this be if our citizens lack contact with the best that humanity has produced, and are ignorant of their own cultural achievements?




1.      Funding the music education provision in the Unfunded Educational Investments and use your influence to get music back in the core curriculum under central administration so that is offered in all schools. Music, along with art and PE, should actually be in the core curriculum, and not just on paper as another unfunded mandate in NCLB. For this they need to be centrally funded, as they were before 1992, with sufficient funds to hire at least one music teacher for every school, and preferably two, a vocal and an instrumental teacher. If every school had a music teacher, music standards and an approved music curriculum, the arts community could supplement and enrich the school program much more effectively than it can do now.


2.      Provide funding for summer music programs during the summer school session: 

CHIME testified before the City Council on February 8 proposing $250,000 from the cash

reserves for 12 summer music camps around the city to be run by DCPS during the 6-week summer school session in 2005 (a copy of this testimony is attached). We have been told the outlook is favorable that they will be included in the Bill, or an amendment to it, that the Council will be voting on in March, and I fervently urge you to support funding of this small item, that could provide 1500 young people with 120 hours of intensive music training, at a cost of less than $125 each (excluding stipends for them). 

Beyond this special funding for a 2005 summer music program, I urge you to provide in the DCPS 2006 budget an equivalent amount for Summer 2006.  Summer music (and other arts) programs fill many needs and it would be hard to find an investment with a higher benefit-cost ratio. 


    3.   Enlist the support of the private sector, under your leadership, in providing  

instruments, instrument repair, instructional materials and uniforms to support school music ensembles.  

Some suggestions:

   business associations would help with funding school needs. In return the bands,     

   choruses or other ensembles could perform at their functions, or feature in their PR.

   teachers in applying  for foundation grants, eg from Mr. Holland’s Opus,  that are

   available for funding school instruments and other supplies. This could be facilitated by

   your Office of Grants and Partnership Development.

   instrument repairs, and instructional materials.

 instruments—DCPS is full of instruments needing repair. This is actually a good

 profession,  as well as a skill that many performing musicians would value having.


Thank you for your consideration of these proposals.


I would be happy to provide any additional information that might help you in deciding to support these proposals.


Dorothy Marschak

Founder and President, CHIME (Community Help In Music Education)

Ph. 202-232-2731; Fax. 202-234-5887; dmarschak@chime-dc.org; www.chime-dc.org.






1.   Marschak testimony to City Council for Summer Music Camp Funding  from Cash /Reserves 2/8/05


2.   Former Woodson H.S. Director of Bands Charles Hankerson’s  testimony on former Woodson HS Summer Band Program and Honors received by his students.