On Sunday night at the Skirball Cultural Center on L.A.’s Westside, entertainment luminaries and community leaders will gather to raise money for Education Through Music – Los Angeles, a non-profit dedicated to integrating music into the core curriculum of low-income-area schools in the Southland.
Randy Spendlove, Paramount Pictures’ president of worldwide music & publishing, a long-time supporter of the organization, will be honored, as will Asuncion Ojeda, a music teacher at L.A. Unified School District.
Those expected to attend include such showbiz talent as Ellie Kemper, Ed Helms, Common, Imagine Dragons, Michael Giacchino and John Debney, as well L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. Eric McCormack is on board to host, while performers will include En Vogue, Michelle Branch, the Goo Goo Dolls’ John Rzeznik and the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
The non-profit was born out of the void left when budgets for arts programs at public schools were slashed dramatically nationwide. In 2012, it was reported that arts funding for the L.A. Unified School District was cut by 76% over the previous five years, from $78.6 million to $18 million, according to Southern California Public Radio.
“But Education for Music steps in and we’ll pay the salaries, we’ll run the curriculum, we’ll donate the instruments and we’ll handle a turnkey music program for your school,” says Spendlove, who routinely visits the music students (4th to 6th grade level) and has occasionally invited them to participate in Paramount-related music experiences.
Spendlove says Education Through Music provides crucial on-the-ground support, corralling teachers for some of the city’s most cash-strapped public schools. “They go to places like Compton Elementary and North Hollywood and Inglewood and the Crenshaw district, severely deprived school districts that really need the resources,” he says.
The program, celebrating its 10th year, has grown dramatically over the last decade, having started out at two schools serving 800 kids in year one, to 20 schools reaching approximately 10,000, according to Victoria Lanier, executive director of Education Through Music – Los Angeles. “And every year we’ve added two to three,” she says.
Lanier says the fundraising goal for Sunday night’s gala is $350,000 to $400,000, a significant increase over last year’s $200,000 haul. The annual affair raises 20%-25% of the non-profit’s total budget, which is roughly $1.1 million a year.
“On the night of, we’ve gotten donations through ticket sales and sponsorships,” says Lanier. “So everything that comes in that night is pure donation and a direct benefit to the children because of the sponsorships that have already covered the cost of the event itself.”
Lanier says the aim is that children “become the best versions of themselves, that they become successful citizens when they graduate and can pursue anything they wish to pursue; and that music helps a child succeed and reach their full potential.”
Several who’ve benefitted have gone on to the Colburn School, a revered music, dance and drama school located near Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
“This benefits the schools that need it most right here in our backyard,” says Spendlove. “I’ve been to these schools, I’ve spoken to these kids, and it’s amazing to see the difference.”