My action project involves me becoming a visible advocate and supporter of LAUSD’s Arts Branch and music programs throughout the district. My project activities include me actively engaging teachers, students, district officials, arts partners, funders and community members in and around LAUSD for the sake of increasing music programs throughout the district this school year and also laying the groundwork for more growth in the coming years. Throughout the project, my activities include meetings with Rory Pullens, the Arts Executive for LAUSD and Christopher Rodriguez, the Music Supervisor for LAUSD, building partnerships and alliances with other music non-profits who have a vested interest in the district, schools and students of LA County, creating and delivering professional development sessions for LAUSD teachers, offering mentorship and feedback to newly trained Modern Band teachers, receiving instrument donations from private funders and distributing them to schools, creating performance opportunities for LAUSD music students, providing active support for events planned by LAUSD’s Art branch, and working directly with the Arts branch on district priorities and goals for the coming year.
How will I know that I have reached my goal?
Hello my name is Tony Sauza and I'd like to share a bit about myself, the work that I do within LA County, and my personal and career evolution as a musician, music educator, and overall advocate for the inclusion of arts in our public schools. After graduating from college, I decided to dedicate myself towards becoming a credentialed music teacher in the state of California. Having never had consistent music education throughout my years as a student in LAUSD, I experienced first hand the damaging impact that this void created in my own life as well as my friends and peers around me. This decision to dedicate my career towards music education was undoubtedly motivated by my personal experience. I set a goal for myself to develop and provide the type of music classroom and program that I always longed for as a student.
I ended up teaching middle school music for seven years in Boyle Heights where I developed a thriving World music and Popular Music program that included ensembles such as Brazilian Samba Drum Line, Mariachi, Modern Band and Choir. I absolutely loved being in the classroom and maintaining a music program that impacted over 400 students from grades 5th through 8th. Although this work satisfied my post-graduate goals, I still felt a strong desire to have an even larger impact. My students were enjoying a quality music program but what about other schools where this was not the case? Unfortunately, to this day many of our schools do not have active music programs and this fact alone is what motivated my next career move.
After much careful consideration, I decided to step out of the classroom for the 2015-2016 school year in order to serve as Regional Program Director for Little Kids Rock, a national non-profit that gives free musical instruments, professional developments and resources to public schools primarily in underserved urban neighborhoods. I made this switch in order to provide more support to teachers as well as increase access to music and musical instruments for the students of Los Angeles. Having spent most of my professional career as an educator in the classroom, I needed to quickly wrap my head around the new environment in which I was about to soon dive into. My task at hand at the start of the school year involved getting to know the current state of music programs within LAUSD and learning about what was needed to increase music programming. In September, I had very limited knowledge of how schools receive their funding, who key advocates are within the district and beyond, and how LCAP functions within the district.
It was at this same time that I applied and was accepted to the ACTIVATE program by Arts for LA. Through this program I have been able to facilitate the process of transitioning from the classroom into education policy and arts advocacy. I decided early on that I wanted to have a direct impact on the growth and development of arts education specifically in regards to music education.
Since the start of the school year I have: