US schools ap­proach Hol­ly­wood for as­sis­tance

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Los An­ge­les

Miles from the Hol­ly­wood Walk of Fame and the red car­pet, Steve Shin belts out tunes on a pi­ano scarred with nicks and love notes writ­ten in scratches, teach­ing chil­dren how to sing.

In scores of other mid­dle schools, his stu­dents might have al­ready learned how to read the notes on a scale. But years of cuts have stripped arts classes from much of the Los An­ge­les dis­trict, leav­ing many chil­dren in the world’s en­ter­tain­ment cap­i­tal with no in­struc­tion in mu­sic, vis­ual arts, dance or the­ater.

When Shin ar­rived for the first day of class, he quickly re­al­ized many of his stu­dents were start­ing from zero.

“A lot of them didn’t even know they were go­ing to be in a mu­sic class,” he says.

Now the sec­ond-largest school dis­trict in the United States is try­ing to en­list Hol­ly­wood stu­dios to “adopt” schools and pro­vide stu­dents with equip­ment, men­tor­ship and train­ing as away to re­verse the lay­offs that have dec­i­mated the cur­ricu­lum.

The fi­nan­cial pic­ture is slowly chang­ing. The arts bud­get has grown to $26.5 mil­lion, about 40 per­cent higher than five years ago, but still a frac­tion of the $76.8 mil­lion­sumthat­wa­sonce avail­able for the arts. For the next school year, it will in­crease to $32.3 mil­lion.

In 2014, the dis­trict hired for­mer TV writer and pro­ducer Rory Pul­lens as its ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for arts ed­u­ca­tion. He has since hired an arts teacher at ev­ery school.

Pul­lens is con­vinced his work in a dis­trict that has 90 per­cent mi­nor­ity stu­dents will one day help di­ver­sify Hol­ly­wood — a widely dis­cussed goal af­ter the crit­i­cism of this year’s all-white list of Academy Award act­ing nom­i­nees. He has al­ready met with Para­mount, Univer­sal and dozens of other in­dus­try lead­ers to so­licit help.

“It is well within all of our pow­ers, if we work to­gether, to rem­edy that by re­ally ad­dress­ing the deep­rooted symp­toms and not just try­ing to put in a cou­ple reme­dies on the sur­face,” Pul­lens says.

The re­newed push for arts ed­u­ca­tion in LA comes as new fed­eral ed­u­ca­tion poli­cies stir hope that schools will be­gin shift­ing more time and money to­ward classes such as dance and drama.

Film and mu­sic stu­dios have chipped in to help Los An­ge­les schools be­fore, but their con­tri­bu­tions tended to fo­cus on the schools di­rectly in their back­yard: Warner Bros has pro­vided fund­ing to im­prove au­di­to­ri­ums at Bur­bank schools. Sony En­ter­tain­ment Pic­tures has run ca­reer work­shops at Cul­ver City schools.

To date, the Los An­ge­les dis­trict has con­firmed part­ner­ships with Nick­elodeon, Sun­set Bron­son Stu­dios and Sun­set Gower Stu­dios.

Most of the do­na­tions have not reached stu­dents yet.

In Shin’s class, stu­dents get by with the bare min­i­mum: an over­head pro­jec­tor dis­play­ing lyrics across the screen, two mi­cro­phones and two stand­ing lights placed in front of the class to make a stage-like per­for­mance space.

Shin calls on stu­dents as if they’re per­form­ing in a real con­cert in front of their peers. On a re­cent af­ter­noon, they sang ev­ery­thing fromMex­i­can bal­lads to angst-rid­den songs by Adele.

Terry Quin­tero, 12, had never been in a mu­sic class be­fore and now dreams of be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional singer.

When she’s singing, Quin­tero says, she leaves ev­ery­thing that’s trou­blingher­be­hind.“What­mat­ters right now,” she says, “is this class.”

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