Local Music Program Doesn’t Miss A Beat — Amid Unprecedented Challenges, Enriching Lives Through Music Proves Nimble, Resilient and Effective

In the fall of 2008, Enriching Lives through Music Founder and Executive Director Jane Kramer, Ph.D., purchased 15 recorders, identified elementary school children from the Canal neighborhood of San Rafael and committed to a year of teaching.

enriching through music, childrens music program
ELM’s upcoming concert on June 6 will feature Latin music from across the globe. Photo credit: Tim Porter

This humble beginning set the stage for what is now a vibrant school of music, changing the lives of children for over 10 years. “My initial students are now seniors poised to attend college with scholarships and high aspirations for their future,” Kramer proudly claims.

ELM has witnessed growth in its number of students, depth of programming, and national recognition and partnerships. As a tuition-free, instrumental and ensemble music program, ELM now serves 150+ primarily first-generation Latinx youth (ages 7-18). With three levels of orchestra, intensive music programming (10 hours a week), and a focus on family engagement, academic support and social/emotional well-being, ELM helps students develop discipline, confidence and leadership skills – all skills needed to succeed in life.

Enriching lives music, children's music program
ELM’s early and intensive music education contributes to the development of discipline, confidence and leadership skills – all skills needed to succeed in life. Photo credit: Tim Porter

The Brain and Creativity Institute at University of Southern California conducted research on students in a program similar to ELM, and with students from similar socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. The five-year study showed that early, intensive music education: speeds the development of speech and language skills; trains children to focus their attention for sustained periods; and leads to improvements in cognitive skills like memory, attention and reading ability — all of which are predictive of improved educational outcomes. “ELM supports the achievement of these outcomes through its philosophy that every child is an asset to the community,” says Tiana Wimmer, ELM’s Board chair and Mill Valley resident.

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Parent ukulele classes are just one way ELM engages parents. Photo credit: Tim Porter

With the onset of the pandemic and the closure of ELM’s rehearsal space, it shifted programming online and has successfully delivered three semesters virtually. Each semester culminates in a concert that brings ELM families, teachers and the greater community together to experience the joy of music.

enriching lives through music, children's music programs
ELM is transitioning back to in-person classes with outdoor Saturday classes, affectionately dubbed the “Parking Lot Conservatory.” Photo credit: Tim Porter

On June 6, ELM will present its third (and hopefully last) virtual concert, featuring Latin music from across the globe. The program will feature: a mariachi ensemble collaboration produced by Jim Pugh, of Little Village Foundation; a piece by Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla (Libertango) performed by the ELM Youth Orchestra in collaboration with One Found Sound, a local chamber orchestra that promotes equity through bold, inclusive performances; and “Luna de Xelaju,” a beloved Guatemalan piece featuring the foremost Guatemalan marimba player, Lester Godinez.

“ELM is much more than a music program,” Kramer said. “It is a powerful community in which parents are deeply engaged in their children’s lives, are surrounded by a supportive network of other families, and participate in musical, leadership and volunteer activities.” She further states that there are no other organizations in the community providing musical education that commit to students with the quality or level of family engagement that ELM does, making it an important contributor to the health and vitality of the Canal.

ELM’s spring concert is June 6 at 3 p.m. PST. Join by registering at ELM’s website.