Schools are in an era of mastering and testing basic academic skills, which has raised questions about the future of the arts in education. Music education is one of the most under-promoted and under-estimated areas in education, according to Andrew Davis, a 57-year-old retired advertising executive who founded the Music Empowers Foundation in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Mr. Davis argues that a child engaged in playing and creating music at a tender age may develop many aspects of the brain and improve their ability to learn.
"When a child is engaged in learning how to play and create music at a young age, it changes many aspects of their brain and the approach to learning," he says.
Mr. Davis, through his foundation, is trying to give as many children as possible the opportunity to play and create music, writes Melanie Grayce West in The Wall Street Journal. Not so long ago, Kids Rock, a Verona, New Jersey-based charity that provided music in public schools, received a grant of nearly $50,000 from Davis's foundation.
Expansions of music programming in schools in Jersey City and Newark will be supported by Davis's grant. Over the last four years, Music Empowers has granted some $238,000 to aid various Little Kids Rock initiatives. Davis serves as chair of the board of directors for Little Kids Rock, which serves around 110,000 schoolchildren, 25,000 of whom are in the New York City area.
A few years ago, Davis met the founder of Little Kids Rock, David Wish, and instantly connected to his vision. After that first meeting, David wrote a personal check of $10,000 to kickstart his his philanthropy, later joining the board to help the organization expand.
Davis relayed that his desire to promote music education and devote his time to philanthropy was part of a dream he shared with his late wife, Carol, who died in 2006. The couple shared a passion for music and in their retirement wanted to be hands-on in their philanthropy, so Davis continues the mission himself.
The Music Empowers Foundation is a direct result of the couple's ideas, and has granted about $500,000 to various organizations in the last 3 years.
Educators agree on the 3 R's, and music education is sometimes seen as something that's just "nice to have" or "fluff," as Davis himself admitted — but he argues that it's a critical component of a 21st-century education.
"Music education is a powerful tool to academic and life success," counters Mr. Davis. "It's what I feel most gives kids the ability to think and problem-solve creatively. In today's world, if you're not ready to think outside of the box and think around problems you're not going to succeed. It's a 21st-century tool were giving kids here and the fact that it's fun and enjoyable and creates a lifetime love is all icing on the cake."