Engaging Detroit

MSU Community Music School-Detroit

More than a pleasant distraction, music is important to children. Listening to it and creating it makes life richer, and research shows that music benefits child development and academic achievement (Catterall 2014). But in the city that gave the world the Motown sound, exposure to music isn’t a given—schools facing budget pressure often cut art and music programs. Many low-income families cannot provide access to music education for their children.

The MSU Community Music School-Detroit (CMS-D) helps bring music to children and families close to where they live, providing high-quality, affordable music education and music therapy clinical services. Enrollment has been growing rapidly since the program began in the 2009–2010 academic year. In 2014–2015, 983 people enrolled in onsite classes and camps, with an additional 214 children participating in free offsite sessions.

The program provides subsidized music lessons so low-income families can pay $5.00 or less per weekly lesson. Students can use instruments at no charge through CMS-D’s “Lonely Instruments in Need of Kids” program.

Angela Bowen brings her 11-year-old son, Ronald, to CMS-D for music lessons. “The Community Music School has been an amazing program for my family,” she said. Her oldest son, Anthony, also took lessons there and is now a freshman at MSU thanks to his experience with the CMS-D Jazz Camp.

“Not only are the lessons affordable, but you can borrow the instruments for free,” said Ms. Bowen. “This has allowed my younger son to learn a number of different instruments.” Ronald has learned to play the trumpet, saxophone, and guitar through CMS-D.

Programs such as Early Childhood Music and Pre-Aspiring Musicians expose younger children to music. The Aspiring Musician Program provides one-hour group lessons for most instruments, and lessons include ensemble playing, music theory, and history. For teens, Spartan Youth Jazz is taught by highly regarded local jazz artists. The MSU Community Music School-Detroit also offers summer day camps and bands for adults and mature teens.

More recently, CMS-D has formed a partnership with the Marshall Mathers Foundation—established by the rapper better known as Eminem—and Dearborn-based work apparel manufacturer Carhartt. Called Verses, the program is reaching out to Detroit students aged 12 to 15 to develop literacy through words and song. The program, free to those accepted, helps students learn the arts of songwriting, composing, performing, wordsmithing, mixing, and recording using the latest technology.



Catterall, James S. March 27, 2014. “The Consequences of Curtailing Music Education.” Tavis Smiley Reports. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/tsr/dudamel-conducting-a-life/the-consequences-of-curtailing-music-education/ (accessed: 3/1/2016)

Community Music School Detroit. 2015. 20142015 Annual Report. Report provided by the Community Music School.