New Aspiring Musicians Program for Youth in Detroit

Gift to MSU Community Music School-Detroit provides free music lessons for Detroit area students.

Warming up… trombone students from Detroit were able to enroll in the new Aspiring Musicians Program thanks to tuition provided by the Dresner Foundation.
The Spartan Youth Jazz Musicians performed with special guest artist Barbara Morrison at the Carr Center in November of 2015.
World-renowned Detroit saxophonist James Carter stops in to visit CMS-D students pictured left to right: Gregory Moore, Lauren and Sara Johnson, and Aspiring Musicians Program saxophone instructor Maria Navedo.

Tyra Wilson’s son stopped wishing for snow days shortly after he began taking music lessons from the MSU Community School in Detroit (CMS-D).

“He will text me and say ‘it’s snowing, we might miss class tomorrow,’” says Wilson, of her 10-year-old who plays the saxophone. “He’s always looking at the weather now, and doesn’t want to miss out. I don’t either.”

Wilson’s school-aged son and daughter are among the 40 to 50 Detroit children and youth who are receiving tuition-free music lessons in the Aspiring Musicians Program at CMS-D thanks to a $20,000 gift from The Dresner Foundation. The students being served are from Detroit neighborhoods where music education might not be available or affordable.

As the youth director of the People’s Missionary Baptist Church on Detroit’s East Side, Wilson is also among the community partners who are helping to identify and enroll students in the program. So far, her family is among 16 others from her church whose children take lessons through CMS-D. Other partners are Covenant House Schools for homeless teens and two Detroit Parks and Recreation Department sites: Clemente Community Center in Southwest Detroit and Crowell Community Center in Brightmoor. Covenant House and the Detroit Recreation centers are providing students with van transportation to CMS-D for their weekly lessons.

The Dresner gift is providing high-quality, small group instrumental, and vocal music lessons to children ages 6 and up through spring semester and summer camps. Instruments on loan, music books, and other supplies will be provided at no cost. Students can enroll in a variety of summer camps and classes for all experience levels, ages, instruments, or voice.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for a significant number of Detroit children and youth to begin their musical journey," says The Dresner Foundation CEO Kevin Furlong. "The Dresner Foundation is pleased to support the MSU Community Music School- Detroit program.”

Jill Woodward, director of the MSU CMS-D, says many of the youth participating in the program would likely never have the chance to study music without the support provided by The Dresner Foundation. Some are homeless, others from economically challenged homes, and most attend schools that are unable to provide music and arts curriculum.

“We are working to get them here and expose them to things that can become a lifelong passion and benefit them educationally for years to come,” Woodward says. “Research shows that music has a unique ability to jumpstart youth achievement, and that it can support development across math, language, social and physical domains.”

Based in West Bloomfield, Mich., the Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation is dedicated to transforming lives through grants in support of activities focused on health, youth and animal welfare.

“We are grateful to The Dresner Foundation for their generosity and vision to bring music into the lives of these deserving kids in Detroit,” says James Forger, dean of the College of Music. “The response to their gift has been overwhelming, and shows the profound value and benefit of music education to Detroit families and children.”

Alicia Bradford, Director of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department, said “We are excited to partner with MSU Community Music School and thankful for the gift from the Dresner Foundation to provide music introduction to youth participating at our recreation centers.  Music exposure will benefit the young people not only through instruction but socially and in their academic studies.”

Launched in 2009, the Community Music School-Detroit is an outreach unit of the MSU College of Music located in the city's Midtown neighborhood. The school offers accessible, sequential learning opportunities for underserved local youth. For information on how you can contribute to and help support curriculum and programs at the Community Music School-Detroit, contact Ann Marie Lindley, associate director of development in the College of Music, at or (517) 432-4889

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