The Guitar Center Music Foundation has partnered with Sheila E.'s Elevate Oakland to build a brand-new music program at Elmhurst United Middle School, Oakland, Calif.

This partnership comes at a critical time for music education programs across California.

Research shows that children who study a musical instrument are more likely to excel in all other studies, have enhanced critical thinking skills, and pursue higher education. Despite this, California music programs have consistently been subject to budget cuts in the last decade.

Elmhurst United Middle School is one of many schools across the state that experienced this firsthand. Helena Jack, the school’s music director, knows how critical music education is to the development of kids and has tried for years to bring a program back to Elmhurst. She came close in 2020, but all momentum was lost when the school went remote due to the pandemic. Students went home without instruments, and it was nearly impossible to teach instrumental music classes virtually.

“By February 2020, things were really starting to change with the mindset of students regarding music,” said Jack. “They went from saying ‘why do I have to do this’ to ‘when are we doing this and what do I have to wear to the performance?’ Suddenly, COVID-19 hits and everything goes away in a week.”

With students back to in-person classes and eager to make music, The Guitar Center Music Foundation and Elevate Oakland donation gives them the space and necessary musical instruments to finally have a sustainable program. Donated items include drums, violins and a state-of-the-art WhisperRoom, which allows them to record and rehearse in a soundproof booth.

To celebrate the new music room, The Guitar Center Music Foundation and Elevate Oakland hosted a surprise unveiling for students on Wednesday, February 16. The event featured Sheila E., the iconic “Queen of Percussion,” Oakland native and co-founder of Elevate Oakland, who spent the morning jamming with students.

“Being exposed to music early in my life had a profound impact on my development as an artist, so I am thrilled to be a part of the rebuild of Elmhurst United Middle School’s music program,” said Sheila E. “These students are so passionate about music, and I’m excited to see them grow into the next generation of artists.”

“Music education should be an essential part of a child’s curriculum because it’s an enriching experience that creates lifelong benefits – from increased social skills to higher levels of confidence and self-esteem,” said Myka Miller-Jimenez, The Guitar Center Music Foundation executive director. “Guitar Center Music Foundation is committed to help support this program, and we can’t wait to see the artists it inspires for years to come.”

To learn more about The Guitar Center Music Foundation’s work to keep music education alive and available in schools across the country, visit guitarcenterfoundation.org.

To learn more about how you can support “The Arts and Music in Schools – Funding Guarantee and Accountability Act,” a ballot initiative that, if passed by the voters of California this fall, will dramatically increase arts education funding in every preK-12 public school to the tune of roughly $800 million a year, without raising taxes, click here.

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