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51Oakland's Jason Hofmann Recognizes Correlation Between Public School Arts and Music Programs and Academic Achievement

Posted by Billyjam, October 11, 2015 11:31am | Post a Comment

Despite the numerous studies conducted that unequivocally prove that there is a direct positive correlation between arts and music programs in schools, and improving academic scores and school attendance records for students who participate, music and arts programs in American public schools are constantly under the threat of being cut from their respective district's shrinking school budgets. School districts in cities across the US such as Chicago, Detroit, and Oakland are among those to feel the results of these budget cuts. Viewing them as short-sighted and detrimental to their communities, 51Oakland co-founder Jason Hofmann calls the cuts to the music and art programs criminal. "That there are no art and music programs in the public schools is a crime," said Hofmann who four years ago, with Yoshi Akiba (Yoshi's Jazz club co-owner), co-founded the non-profit 51Oakland organization with the singular goal of bringing music and arts back into the classrooms of the city of Oakland schools. Jason and Yoshi outlined 51Oakland's mission statement as "a funding conduit for inspirational music and arts programs developed by a synergistic partnership of Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD) principals and teachers, professional musicians and artists and involved community members." 51Oakland has produced its own events and developed programs, as well as teaming up with another similarly themed local non-profit Elevate Oakland that is headed by Sheila E - the accomplished percussionist, singer, former Prince collaborator, and daughter of Pete Escovedo. 

Hofmann's organization has enjoyed many successes but finds it to be a constant uphill battle. He sees 51Oakland's primary duty as been, "Mainly here to support the teachers at the schools by helping them provide relevant curriculum." This involves bringing contemporary music (hip-hop) to the students. Recently he said that they incorporated the acclaimed Nas documentary (Nas: Time Is Illmatic)  into one of their programs and noticed an immediate positive impact.

Music programs are important anywhere but for a city like Oakland there are of extra significance said Hofmann who stressed the need to, "appreciate art and culture and its importance to this town. This town has been built on producing artists for five, six, decades or longer." Cutbacks to school programs date back two decades. "It was about 20 years ago they cut all the school programs in Oakland," said Hofmann, noting that the, "District went bankrupt in 2003….it gained control again in 2009 but its still trying to get itself out of the ashes." Much of the current (post-recession) problem is not just budgetary but misallocation of funding in school districts like Oakland across the nation reports Hofmann. "A lot of the changing environment in education and also what contributes is this emphasis on test scores" - one in which there has been a significant increase in funding for math and science at the expense of music and art. Ironically many of the aforementioned studies on the effects of music and arts programs in schools have proven that those students who study music or art enjoy better grades and greater academic achievements.

In other countries such as Japan and Holland, where music education programs are mandatory, on a global standard they consistently rank among the highest for math and science test scores. "It is so important to realize that it is art and music that is getting them [students] up and out of bed and into the schools in the first place! And taking that away is a huge reason why we have a dropout rate in schools of well over 40%," stressed Hofmann.

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Today, October 11th 2015 from 12:30pm to 6pm, 51Oakland will have a stage and an
information booth set up at the Rockridge Out & About street party in North Oakland
- near the Berkeley border - find them near Claremont and College avenues.

Relevant Tags

Jason Hofmann (2), Joe Kemper (2), Rockridge Out & About (1), 51oakland (2), Elevate Oakland (1), Importance Of School Music Programs (1)