Music in Schools Today got its start after it looked like school music and arts programs were going to be cut in the San Francisco budget in 1980. Executive Director Meg Madden says since then they’ve been helping schools with their music programs, and working with other groups across the country to find the best practices for teaching the arts.
San Francisco schools had important allies in fighting the cuts, including a virtuoso violinist. “They were going to do away with the music programs here in San Francisco,” Madden says, “and so Yehudi Menuhin and members of the Symphony, and the senior art critic at the Chronicle… in those days it was the Examiner, went and lobbied the Board of Education. And Sir Menuhin made an incredibly inspiring speech, and at the end of it they voted to reinstate the program.” To try to prevent that sort of threat from resurfacing, a non-profit was formed with the aim of helping the programs already in place. They were contacted by many schools, and the early efforts of MUST were more responsive than proactive, but it turned out they were on the right track. “When we first started, we were just responding to what schools wanted. And after we’d been doing it for a few years, we brought in a consultant to look at what we were doing, and just by accident, although we had grown like Topsy, we really were covering the major issues in arts education.” They continue to provide assistance to schools, with teaching artists able to help, enrichment programs, and a year-round ‘adopt an instrument‘ program with three sites for donations.