The 2012-13 academic year is almost over and summer vacation is quickly approaching.
But for one Cultural Trust grantee and 10 AmeriCorps volunteers, there is still a month left to make a difference in rural school children’s lives.
Ethos Music, renowned for its urban community building and rural outreach program, received a $10,000 grant from the Cultural Trust in FY2013 to support its partnership with AmeriCorps that first sent two volunteers, and now sends 10, to teach music in small schools.
Ethos’ “Music Across Oregon” program provides music instruction to 19 schools, in Fossil, Condon, Long Creek, Monument, Elkton, and Warm Springs; In Academic Year 2011-2012 the program reached close to 3,000 students.
The AmeriCorps volunteers teach music full time, offer after-school lessons, and organize performances by students as well as visiting musical groups. AmeriCorps volunteers have reported a shift among their students, the most dramatic being from sports and socializing to academics and the arts, opening different peer group and scholastic opportunities for the students, as well as new college and career options.
Last year, Ethos Executive Director Jeddediah Chavez was moved by the reception on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. “That was the first time an AmeriCorps volunteer has been placed on a Reservation in Oregon,” he noted. He called the experience humbling and overwhelming and said the volunteers felt “completely embraced” by the tribe.
The Cultural Trust, said Chavez, was instrumental in facilitating the original partnership with AmeriCorps; Trust Executive Director Chris D’Arcy wrote letters of recommendation to AmeriCorps, supporting the credibility and credentials of Ethos.
At its home in North Portland, Ethos is a hub for youth and families, providing affordable music lessons for students, many of whom receive free or reduced lunches. The Ethos Music Center in North Portland includes a café, performance hall, studios and classrooms where 423 students took lessons in Fall 2012. Chavez estimates Ethos serves 2,000 local youth a year, including students of the Hip Hop Lab, who learn to DJ, mix beats, write lyrics and make music videos. “We expose them to familiar music, Hip Hop, and then we introduce them to other types of music, like Jazz,” said Chavez.
Ethos’ building had been abandoned when the group acquired it in 2005. “I’d like to think we have (been a leader in) the revitalization of North Killingsworth,” said Chavez. “The neighborhood is essential to our mission. We are here because of the people who send their kids to us.”
Integral to North Portland, Ethos manages the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, which rents space to Rock N’ Roll Camp For Girls and nearly 20 other community groups. The venue hosts over 1,200 Portlanders a month at performances, bringing money into the local economy and raising the neighborhood’s profile.
The Cultural Trust granted Ethos Music’s rural outreach program in 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2013.