Prodigious musical talent must find its beginnings somewhere, as Christophe Beck knows. The Canadian-born composer began exploring his own penchant for music at a private high school in Toronto. “I was fortunate,” Beck says. “The school hired a bunch of great teachers, a lot of them professional musicians and that kind of immersive experience … was crucial to my development as a musician.” But, when Beck learned that some schools in Los Angeles have no music program to speak of, he was “shocked.”
Beck was introduced to this disparity by Education Through Music-Los Angeles, a charity devoted to providing quality music education to disadvantaged schools in the L.A. area.
Fellow composers Austin Wintory and Tim Davies invited Beck to take part in ETM-LA, and since then Beck has landed a spot on the organization’s advisory board. Victoria Lanier, exec director of the nonprofit, notes that Beck’s involvement with the program has been advantageous not only because of his financial support, but also “because of the visibility he brings.” “It allows people who may not otherwise hear about ETM-LA to know about us,” says Lanier.
ETM-LA, founded in 2006, is based on the Education Through Music model in New York. During its first year, ETM-LA worked with two schools in the L.A. area, bringing music as a part of the core curriculum to more than 800 students. Since then, the charity has branched out and now serves 4,500 eighth grade students at 10 disadvantaged L.A. schools. The program’s mission, says Beck, is to create equal opportunity for a well-rounded music education.
“It isn’t really whether or not a student becomes a musician … it’s giving each student an equal opportunity for success in whatever field they want to pursue,” Lanier says. “It’s about transferable skills.”
Beck joins a list of other showbiz musicians who have contributed to the org, including vocalist Lisbeth Scott and composer Michael Giacchino. ETM-LA’s plan is to continue its expansion into new schools every year, and, according to Lanier, continue to “connect renowned artists to the community and to spotlight the (music) programs that are going on.”
Beck himself is looking forward to visiting schools and discussing both his personal and professional experience with music. “I’d love to do master classes,” says Beck, “and I plan to have kids sit in on recording sessions as well.”
“I want all students to have the opportunity I had,” says Beck as he reflects on his own music education experience. “I think sometimes music takes a backseat to sports — there’s a lot of pressure to be a great athlete … (but) a pursuit of the arts is just as important, and there are kids where sports is not what they were born to do, and it would be a shame to leave those kids out in the cold.”
He continues, “That’s why ETM-LA is great — it gives them the chance to do that, especially if they can’t afford the instruments … after all, I’m sure schools have plenty of football pads to hand out.”
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