Despite schools across Michigan cutting music programs out of the curriculum — 5th grade students at Warren Consolidated Schools are enjoying the high notes thanks to a new initiative that lets them all learn to play.

It’s just coming into tune, but students like Sydney Marsalais are already learning the scales of success — and know how rare an opportunity this is.

“Because a lot of those kids would like to really try band and I just feel bad for them, because if they love to actually try to play an instrument then I just feel bad that the don’t,” said Marsalais.

For fourteen years elementary band teacher Catherine Case had to get creative with instrument instruction. But now the sounds of flutes, clarinets, trumpets and drums fill the classroom walls.

Dr. Robert Shaner has trumpeted the program. He’s the school district’s instruction and technology executive director, and he has lobbied hard to get it off the ground. “Arts are a 21st century skill. (It) helps kids to be creative and innovative in the classroom and as we know that’s what we want in the 21st century, because the kids are going to have to be really creative to be competitive in the 21st century job market,” said Shaner.

What’s so unique about this program is that each 5th grader receives a new instrument and is offered the opportunity to buy it at the end of the year so they can keep playing for years to come. Case said, “It’s been proven that students who are in band or a musical group score 27 percent higher over four years.”

But even though Mrs. Case knows how crucial it is to perform — students like Marsalais just want to play. She said, “It’s kind of happy that I actually am learning how to play a new instrument that I never played before.”

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