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At Gateway Elementary School in Madison, Gwenn Fitzpatrick has a disabled student who uses a wheelchair and does not have function in his hands. Last year, the school received a keyboard lab grant from the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, and the student can now play music by pressing the keys using a baton he holds in his mouth.
“He loves playing the keyboards,” Fitzpatrick wrote in a note to the foundation. “My [other] students love the lab, and I have noticed that many students that had a hard time in academic classes really excelled and especially enjoyed the lab experience.”
Gateway is one of more than 40 Metro Nashville Public Schools that has received about $1.23 million for new musical instruments over the past 16 years. (Save the Music has been around since 1997, granting $51 million in musical instruments to about 1,900 public schools nationwide.) This year, the foundation announced a commitment to restore three additional music programs at area schools—each one, which is required to have an existing music program in place with a credentialed teacher and dedicated classroom, will receive $30,000 in instruments to make up their own keyboard lab.
“Lots of studies out there point to the impact of music participation in terms of [students’] other studies,” says the foundation’s executive director, Paul Cothran. “And we hear that from the students themselves. It makes sense that that’s something you want to keep. A lot of schools are faced with testing or budget constraints. Music seems to always be undervalued. It’s among the first thing that are cut.”
Save the Music continues to look for creative ways to raise funds. In April, the foundation kicked off a national series of dinners called Musically Mastered Menu; it launched here in Nashville, then headed to Chicago in August, and lands in New York in November. The nonprofit debuted the series in Nashville partly due to its “rich history and standing as a music capital,” says Cothran.
Held at The Cordelle event space, the intimate dinner featured an acoustic performance by singer-songwriter Elle King. And in an unprecedented move, The Catbird Seat chefs, including executive chef Trevor Moran, prepared their superb tasting menu outside of the restaurant. Guests like Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley and singer Bryan White, as well as others interested in school music programs, tasted oysters on the half shell with spring strawberry granita and roasted duck with pickled flower at the $500 per person affair.