APS Column: MacPhail and APS, a musical partnership

Published 5:58 pm Friday, April 28, 2023

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By Cheryl Berglund

MacPhail Center for Music Austin Supervisor

The partnership between Austin Public Schools and MacPhail Center for Music was developed to extend the reach of music beyond what either partner could obtain alone and is one of the deepest collaborations between a public school and community music center in the nation. 

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We are thrilled to be able to work with the students of Austin to share our mission “to transform lives and strengthen communities through inspirational music learning experiences.”

MacPhail Center for Music. Photo provided

MacPhail’s award-winning Early Childhood Education Program Sing Play Learn with MacPhail reaches all Community Learning Center 4-year-old classes and all Woodson Kindergarten students.  

Classes are designed for a specific stage of development and encourage children to explore musical concepts, experiment with new instruments, and develop school readiness skills in an active learning environment. 

MacPhail’s residency programs allow all APS elementary students to engage in authentic study of music and culture outside of the Western experience. Nikki Tolde, music teacher at Sumner Elementary said, “The Korean folksong experience, Soojin, provided for our students at Sumner was exceptional! The students learned language, musical style, and an appreciation of a culture other than their own. They built connections to their own culture and experiences throughout the process.” 

In April 2023, Siama Matuzungidi and Dallas Johnson visited every class in all four elementary schools teaching about African music and culture. 

MacPhail partners with school ensembles to provide individual attention to students working on auditions for select groups and solos or ensembles for contests.  In February, MacPhail invited Brian Johnson to work with choir students and Phil Burkhart to work with choir and band. Gene Schott said, “Having Mr. Burkhart come in and work with my students for the solo contest was such a lifesaver. Having that one-on-one work proved very beneficial for all my students. This year, my students were more prepared than ever before.” 

The state-of-the-art MacPhail Center for Music facility in Austin was designed with the intent to provide students of all ages and backgrounds with a place to grow with music, and it has become a community hub for musical activities. Each year, $16,000 in financial aid is awarded for students to study at MacPhail Center for Music.

Together MacPhail and Austin Public Schools are working to break down barriers that prevent access to music education and, with over 1,500 students served each week through the collaboration, are making a difference in the lives of our students.