By Celina Fontenot, Arthur DeVitalis, Mariana Muñoz and Claire Rodgers
Arts education has been declining for more than three decades because of tight budget cuts and a common misconception that the arts are beautiful, but not vital to the core curriculum.
Extensive research shows that music education correlates to almost everything we want for children’s cognitive development and demand from our school system: academic achievement and social and emotional growth.
Dylan Jones founded Anthropos Arts in 1998 with a similar idea in mind. The program provides high-quality music education for low-income students. With the help of professional musicians from diverse music genres, Jones is able to give free music lessons to students.
“One of the biggest things for musicians is seeing kids perform and reliving their moments of musical discovery. We get to watch kids to relive those first moments, it’s like a milestone,” Jones says. “Students in poverty face more barriers than most students. We give them a safe haven and something intellectually challenging.”
Seventeen years later, Not only do students get instruction from professional musicians—some even Grammy-winning artists—the students perform at well-known music venues, and events like ACL Festival, SXSW, Shady Grove, Stubb’s, and more.
Aside from musical exposure, students are learning valuable life lessons that prepare them for college and the real world. Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. It can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork.
Andres Rios, an 18-year-old graduating senior in the program feels he has grown immensely from his time at Anthropos.
“When I started Anthropos Arts I had a lot of anxiety with playing in front of people and being in front of a crowd in general. This program taught me how to stay in control and keep comfortable in those types of environments. I feel that music benefited me by making me more creative and expressive in the classroom. It even helped with my public speaking because of my experience of being in front of crowds.”
Carla Pantoja, a 19-year-old graduate from Anthropos reflects on her positive exposure from the arts program.
“I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t play music. I don’t think I would be in college or would have graduated from high school.”
When Jones first started the charity, he didn’t realize what the outcome results would be.
“Now we’ve done it and I’m in year 17 and it works. I encourage people to support. Like these schools, we’re underfunded and need money to help bring these resources to these kids—and it’s a no brainer, we have one of the biggest music scenes here in the world. And we have tons of kids and its absolutely crucial to their development.”
Over the past five years, 100% of their senior students have graduated from high school, and more than 80% enrolled in college on scholarships. There are currently 150 kids on 18 campuses and will have around 20 concerts this year.