The best opportunity for innovation in education is to ensure all students have access to a complete education that includes music and the fine arts…and also for general education teachers to use the arts as a tool to reach all students.” – Jaclyn Shea, USA

As a high school music teacher, Shea saw first-hand the tangible and intangible benefits of music education. After joining the band or chorus, students with a record of discipline problems suddenly became engaged in school. They showed up at 7 a.m. for extra rehearsals, and enthusiastically participated in weekend performances. Five years ago, Shea brought her appreciation for music education to VH1’s Save The Music Foundation, where she now serves as Program and Communications Manager. Her work takes her to schools in 15 districts across the country, where she oversees the program’s impact on students and communities. Since 1997, the foundation has donated more than $45 million in new instruments to 1700 public schools in 100 cities around the US.

Earlier this week, Microsoft Shape the Future and VH1 Save The Music announced a partnership to raise awareness about the value of exposing students to technology and music, helping to ensure that students and educators alike achieve their full potential.
Award-winning singer/songwriter Gavin DeGraw helped to kick off the collaboration, with some very effective advocates, like VH1’s Jaclyn Shea.

When we talked recently, Shea told me that math scores, standardized test scores, attendance and graduation rates all typically rise when students become involved in music. “When students have that outlet and are able to study music during the school day,” Shea said, “it’s that release, that experience where they’re creating something with other students.” And access to music and technology go hand-in-hand, both opening opportunities for students to create, collaborate and grow. The VH1 Save the Music Foundation helps develop long-term, sustainable instrumental music programs that provide children with equal access to music education regardless of their financial situation. With a common goal of fully rebuilding, community partnerships are created and instrumental music education is brought back to life. Today, I’m sharing my conversation with Shea, and I hope that you, too, will be inspired by her passion and commitment to ensuring all students have access to a well-rounded education.

Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?

My platform at VH1 Save The Music Foundation allows me a “bird’s eye” view of the scope of music programs in schools around the country. I am in schools on a regular basis in communities from San Diego, California to Birmingham, Alabama to New Haven, Connecticut where I can share resources and connect administrators and music educators to one another.

What has changed as a result of your efforts?

In schools that face many challenges, I have witnessed administrators’ and teachers’ methods to bring access to music education to all students; I am sharing these “best practices” with others wishing to do the same.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

Our website, www.vh1savethemusic.org, provides an Advocacy Toolkit, a one-stop-shop with music education resources. I will be presenting at the California Music Educators Conference in February 2013, attending the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Show’s Music Education Days in January, 2013, and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) conference in the spring of 2013. And you can contact me at http://www.vh1savethemusic.com/contact.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

The VH1 Save The Music Foundation uses our website, monthly e-newsletter, and social media platforms to stay connected to our supporters, educators, and administrators.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

With continued tight budgets, it is challenging for administrators to provide a well-rounded education for all students that includes music and the arts when they have to make cuts across the board.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?

VH1 Save The Music Foundation continues to provide grants of new musical instruments to schools to jump start new instrumental music programs. With committed school district partnerships, we are ensuring that all students have access to a quality education that includes music.

What conditions must change in your country to better support education?

Federal and state funding for public education must increase in order for schools to afford all the resources needed to thrive.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

I believe it is to ensure all students have access to a complete education that includes music and the fine arts…and also for general education teachers to use the arts as a tool to reach all students.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

Stay connected to your colleagues and share resources. Be your best advocate by engaging your administrators in your program, putting a long term curriculum/growth plan in  place. Visibility = Validity! Bring your students out into the community to share what they are doing in your class or program. When you engage the community, you build a groundswell of support.

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

It is amazing how students are able to connect with others through technology. There is infinite information and resources available to them online and they can tap into so much through their phones/tablets/computers.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

I would give them each a musical instrument of course! 🙂

To learn more, be sure to check out the Shape the Future/Save The Music page on Facebook.

About Jaclyn Shea
Twitter: @vh1savethemusic

Jaclyn Shea is an avid yogi, musician, and full-time program manager for The VH1 Save the Music Foundation. Before joining VH1, Jaclyn Shea went from being a high school music teacher in California, to a full-time tour leader for Trek America, where she led small-group adventure camping and hiking tours all around the country. Her adventures brought her from the depths of the Grand Canyon to hiking to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. 

  • Birthplace: Connecticut, USA
  • Current residence: Jersey City, New Jersey, USA
  • Education: M.M. in Music Education from Syracuse University
  • Favorite childhood memory: Dancing in the Nutcracker Ballet
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): I am traveling to Memphis, Tennessee next week to work with Memphis City Schools and visit our 2012 grantee schools, Grandview Middle School and Fairview Middle School. They both received grants of string instruments to start new orchestra programs!
  • Favorite book: I can’t pick just one… but I recently read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, amazing!
  • Favorite music: Brahms, Copland, The Beatles, Dave Matthews, Tori Amos
  • Your favorite quote or motto: “Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway.”
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