Access to the Arts: Spotlight on Seattle Music Partners

access_for_allOn August 1st, King County voters will have a chance to vote for Proposition 1, also known as Access for All. This fund would provide arts, science, and heritage organizations like KEXP with significant new resources to sustain existing programs, greatly expand free and reduced-price access to programming, and create new long-term partnerships with King County public schools and school districts. Access for All would be paid for with a .1% sales tax levy (1 penny on every $10 spent) which would cost the average King County household about $3 per month. If a majority of King County voters approve it, Prop 1 will create a new fund for arts, science, and heritage education and access for residents and public school students. Over the next week, we’ll be spotlighting a few of the other local organizations who will also see an impact from Prop 1, like today’s profile on Seattle Music Partners.

Founded in 2000, Seattle Music Partners is dedicated to bringing more music-learning opportunities to students in low-income schools, through a free afterschool program that uses music and mentorship to empower young people. Students are given the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument, read music, and develop a sense of belonging. We asked Program Director Meaghan Leferink to share more about Seattle Music Partners:

Over the past year, what are some of your organization’s highlights in education, events, or programs for Seattle?

This past year was a year of overall growth for Seattle Music Partners — our after-school program worked with over 100 students at our four schools in the Central District and expanded to additional grade levels with our middle school program. We had more students than ever participate in our summer program, and more volunteers than ever to make it all happen! In total over 150 people from the Seattle music community came together to make SMP the quality educational experience that it is for our students.

Over the past year, these students not only worked hard within our core programming at their schools — they had the opportunity to experience the greater Seattle music scene through field trips to the Seattle Symphony, Meany Center for the Performing Arts, Jazz Alley, and a year-end performance of their own at Town Hall. As an organization, we are very committed to connecting with the arts community of Seattle through partnerships with organizations like these, and our students benefit from the experiences they have there.

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What key aspect of your org’s work do most people in King County probably not realize?
Something that continues to take people by surprise when they hear about our program is that literally, every element of our program is free to participants. We not only provide students with free private instruction and ensemble experience, we provide them with the instrument they use for the year, the method book, and all the accessories they need to play that instrument. Transportation home from the program is free to them, and any performance that they attend with us is at no cost to them or their family members. We want to remove all barriers that our students have to receive quality music education, and thinking about every aspect of their experience is an important part of that for us.

We’ve been doing this work for 17 years, and we’ve deepened and strengthened the relationships we can have with our community through the power of the mentoring our volunteers do with their students. These relationships go beyond music instruction to real bonds of friendship that are valuable to all involved.

What would passage of Proposition 1 mean for Seattle Music Partners?

There are three major ways Access for All would affect Seattle Music Partners:

1) It would be a significant boost to our program funding — support through Access for All would free up funding for new instruments, additional programming, and an overall better experience for participants.

2) It could increase opportunities for us to facilitate artist visits and field trips to other cultural institutions around Seattle. Our students could see more artists like them who have made their way in the arts world. It would also likely provide additional opportunities to the families of our students outside of their time in SMP- they could experience more art more often in more places.

3) It would strengthen the presence of art within the schools we partner with. When students have musical support systems in school and out of school, they do better. We want a strong musical environment for our students in any school they attend, at every age. We are just one piece of the puzzle in their music education, and we support the other tools, programs, or strategies that can put all the pieces together in a comprehensive arts education.

Find out more about Seattle Music Partners at their website, and follow them on Facebook and YouTube.

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