Urban Music Education Programming

I-65 Corridor Collaborative

Music for All has broadened and modified its approach to expanding scholastic music education opportunities, refining and opening new pathways for student and music program participation. This approach is best demonstrated by our 2018 launch of Music for All’s I-65 Corridor Collaborative – a program designed to create and implement sustainable student-teacher driven collaboration and tools intended to increase participation and reduce barriers to scholastic music-making within coreurban school communities along the I-65 corridor (from Gary, Indiana to Mobile, Alabama).

The collaborative envisions, develops, and implements “self-help” strategies supporting music education. The focus is to provide students and teachers with a forum, the collaborative planning resources, and skills necessary to help and encourage them (acting alone and independent of challenges posed by lack of program support from administrators, policy decision-makers, and the community) to address everyday challenges and the systemic inequities and disparities facing urban scholastic music programs. Through this focus, students and teachers develop strategic goals for their programs building toward the ultimate goal of increased program support from administrators, policy decision-makers, and the community, with a special emphasis on celebrating and appreciating the small steps of growth.

The George Washington H.S. Band marches through the streets of their home town of Indianapolis, IN. 

Director Chip Wise and two of his “look-alikes” on Halloween. Leeds H.S., AL

The Blue Regiment Marching Band from Tarrant H.S., AL

Why I-65?

For nearly two decades, Music for All has maintained a commitment to diligent, hands-on engagement with the scholastic music programs of Indianapolis Public Schools. These efforts have sparked research into “peer” communities in hopes of finding new strategies to address barriers and threats to sequential music education, such as frequent administrative or faculty turnover, financial struggle, and state-imposed solutions. In the course of this research, MFA found many parallels in the challenges and concerns faced by communities along the corridor, with most schools facing challenges characteristic of threatened and traditionally underserved schools and populations. Inspired by this observation, the I-65 Corridor Collaborative was established with the goal of forging and implementing new strategies that address possibilities for growth and increased achievement within these underserved communities. In the first year of the I-65 Collaborative, Music for All developed ongoing partnerships with 11 schools in eight communities along the I-65 corridor: Gary, IN; Indianapolis, IN; Louisville, KY; Nashville, TN; Huntsville, AL; Birmingham, AL; Montgomery, AL; and Mobile, AL, along with “spur” communities of Muncie, IN; Leeds, AL; and Tarrant, AL. 

The Central H.S. band practices drill for the 2019 season, Louisville, KY. 

Students in the Columbia H.S. Jazz Band, Huntsville, AL

I-65 Corridor Summit

Each teacher who participates in the I-65 Corridor Collaborative is invited to attend the I-65 Corridor Summit at the Music for All Summer Symposium each June.  Participants have the opportunity to network with each other and share their experiences, gaining valuable insight from the successes and challenges of their peers. Participating teachers have access to the full offerings of the Summer Symposium Directors’ Academy, as well as a specialized curriculum for music teachers in core urban environments, which is curated by our Urban Education Advisory Committee. Student attendees of the I-65 Corridor Summit elect one of ten divisions of study at the Summer Symposium to serve as their primary focus for the week. 

The curriculum for the I-65 Corridor Summit is guided by the belief that collaboration between students and teachers is the best method for creating and developing a comprehensive music program that can sustain itself through the support and investment of its most important groups of constituents. In addition to the full offerings of the Summer Symposium, students participate in collaborative discussions with their teachers, during which they develop a strategic plan to support the growth and sustainability of their music program during the following academic year.

Columbia H.S. Jazz Band, Huntsville, AL

Students from West Side Leadership Academy, Gary, IN, with their director, Rovelli Grib, following their performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Urban Education Advisory Committee

The Urban Education Advisory Committee is a team of educators and administrators with extensive knowledge of the strategic planning process and experience working with core urban school districts. Committee members William Earvin, Zachary Harris, Dee Dee Pitts, and Sarkino Walker oversee all aspects of the collaborative, from the development of relationships with corridor teachers and administrators to the creation of content and curriculum for collaborative participants. They serve as liaisons to participating teachers in each community, providing mentorship and guidance as teachers develop and implement strategic plans to maximize local investment and elevate community recognition of their programs. The Committee is also responsible for executing one specially-designed professional development session or “engagement opportunity” per academic school year in each of the corridor communities.

Zachary J. Harris

Zachary J. Harris

Committee Chair, Gulfport Schools, MS (Retired)

Liason to:

  • Jefferson County Public Schools (Louisville, KY)
  • Metro Nashville Public Schools (Nashville, TN)
Dr. William J. Earvin

Dr. William J. Earvin

Director of Bands, Baker High School, LA

Liason to:

  • Gary Community Schools (Gary, IN)
  • Indianapolis Public Schools (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Muncie Community Schools (Muncie, IN)
Dee Dee Pitts

Dee Dee Pitts

Associate Director of Bands, Gulfport High School, MS

Liason to: 

  • Huntsville City Schools (Huntsville, AL)
  • Mobile County Public Schools (Mobile, AL)
  • Tarrant City School System (Tarrant, AL) 
Sarkino Walker

Sarkino Walker

Director of Bands, Sandtown Middle School, GA

Liason to: 

  • Birmingham City Schools (Birmingham, AL)
  • Leeds City School System (Leeds, AL)
  • Montgomery Public Schools (Montgomery, AL)
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