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Oklahoma students working to keep music alive in low-income schools

EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR)  – Once the final bell rang at school, you might remember still being able to hear music coming from certain high school classrooms as students perfected their tune.

However, that changed in many Oklahoma schools due to budget cuts in recent years.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute stated that in the 2017-2018 school year, Oklahoma had 1,110 fewer art and music classes than just four years ago. In all, it shows that 28 percent of Oklahoma public school students were without access to fine arts classes.

The report says students who live in rural areas and those who attend lower-income schools are less likely to have access to fine arts classes.

Now, a group of high school students is working together to keep the music alive in schools that have been affected by those budget cuts.

“Fine Arts education (such as orchestra, band, or choir, etc.) is often neglected and under-funded by poorer school districts because the subject is less prioritized than technical subjects like reading and math, meaning that those kids are missing out on the full experience of a vital and essential aspect of their education,” Joshua Zhu, founder of ‘Live Life Music,’ told News 4 in an email.

Members of Live Life Music, a non-profit, student-run organization to help local communities through music

Zhu and a handful of other high school students created ‘Live Life Music,’ a student-run 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, which is meant to improve Oklahoma communities through music-related programs.

So far, the kids have created the ‘Music for Seniors’ program, where they voluntarily play music at local retirement homes.

Now, they are hoping they can make an even bigger impact on their peers.

Girls playing violin in music class

Zhu told News 4  they learned that multiple orchestra students in poorer schools were often forced to share instruments with their classmates, meaning they wouldn’t be able to take their instruments home and practice daily.

“We want to help those kids and provide them with the means necessary to have a full orchestra experience. Even if we’re just high school students, we believe that we do have the ability to make that difference in our society, no matter how small or large,” Zhu said.

The students are currently organizing a benefit concert at Santa Fe High School in order to raise money for the orchestra program at Northwest Classen High School.

“We’ve always thought music could transform the lives of those around us. We wanted to help an underfunded Oklahoma orchestra program acquire the resources that they may not be able to afford. After visiting Northwest Classen, we knew we wanted to work with them for our benefit concert and hopefully make an impact on the dedicated students at the school,” Jaclyn Fan, fundraising committee head of the group, said.

Girl playing violin in orchestra

The benefit concert will be held on Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. at Santa Fe High School.

There will be a recommended donation of $5 per adult and $3 per child at the door. All of the money raised from the event will be donated to Northwest Classen’s orchestra program.

“The Northwest Classen orchestra was very excited to learn that we were the chosen school for the benefit concert. We want to thank all the representatives with Live Life Music for helping put this together and all the musicians that will be performing. We encourage everyone to show support for the Northwest Classen orchestra by attending the concert this Monday, October 21, 2019 at 6 p.m,” Samantha Sy, Northwest Classen orchestra director, said in a statement to News 4.