Tucson Summer Music is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides free music education to children aged 5-13 from low-income families. TSM includes 30-minute private music lessons, group music theory classes, group percussion class, and small ensembles. TSM operates June-July ending in a final recital.
The current economic crisis has greatly depleted funding for K-12 education (Brewer). Tucson Unified School District is currently facing a $17 million budget deficit (Huicochea). As stated on the TUSD website: “Programs such as fine arts… which support and improve academic excellence, cannot be sustained with [the] current reduction in funding” (Tucson Unified School District). TUSD is now discussing the closure of eleven schools (Huicochea), which is only the beginning. Additionally, voters last November rejected Proposition 204 that would have granted permanency to a one-cent sales tax that was meant to help decrease the budget deficit (Camarillo and Hansen). As funding is cut to schools in the current crisis, the first programs to be eliminated are fine arts.
The unemployment rate in Tucson has soared from 3.6% in 2007 to 9.4% in 2009, finally decreasing only slightly in 2011 to 8.4% (Bureau for Labor Statistics). The doubled unemployment rate indicates that families have tighter budgets. On average, music lessons can cost between $260 per year if the family already owns the instrument, to $3,079 per year* if the family must rent an instrument and the student is taking lessons from a professional musician. As funding is cut for programs in the public school system and families’ budgets are tightened due to unemployment and pay cuts, many students may not have the opportunity to express themselves through music.
In response to this deficit, Tucson Summer Music was started in November of 2009. Tucson Summer Music (TSM) provides a twofold service to the community. On one hand it provides free 30-minute music lessons to children aged 6-13 from low-income families. On the other hand it also provides local music students an opportunity to gain experience teaching on their instrument. TSM runs through the months of June and July, and each student receives one free lesson per week and free group music theory lessons each week. The program ends with a final recital meant to acquaint the students with performing in front of a group.