Music stardom starts in the classroom. I should know

Ledisi Young
Ledisi Young

Ever since I could remember, I’ve loved to sing. When I was only 3 years old, I was singing along to “Head to the Sky” by Earth, Wind, and Fire. At that moment, my mother realized I was musically gifted and that my talent needed to be nurtured.


Classes in the arts were rarely offered in most schools, so my mother moved my family into one of the few districts that had a music program. My mother later moved my sister and I to Oakland, which had some of the best music programs at the time. It was in the Bay Area that my path in music took off. I was fortunate enough to get a full five-year scholarship to the young musicians’ program at UC Berkeley. The love and support of my mother and the generosity of donors for youth musical programs led me to where I am today. But not all children will have these opportunities.

That is why the Recording Academy, along with the California PTA, the Actors Fund and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, are joining hundreds of school superintendents, arts advocates, business leaders, teachers, parents and students in calling on the Legislature to pass and Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the Arts for Every Student Act.

This legislation, proposed in Senate Bill 933 will enable California schools to jump start arts education programs, especially in schools serving disadvantaged students.

Progress was made in the 2018-19 state budget with the inclusion of $44 million for visual and performing arts and health services at local schools. SB 933, authored by Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, will continue that one-time investment in future years.

In 2000, more than one million students were enrolled in school music programs throughout the state. By 2008, that number had dropped to 470,000. This trend has disproportionately impacted African-American and Latino students.

These numbers will continue to decline if something isn’t done. Children deserve the opportunity to nurture their love of the arts.

Arts instruction prepares young people for success in the 21st century workplace by fostering collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity and by encouraging innovation and persistence. These are essential skills students need to successfully compete and participate in the information-based society of tomorrow.

The creative industries are a powerful driving force in California, contributing billions to our state’s economy and generating millions of jobs. SB 933 is not just about meeting today’s demands but about California’s continued economic success.

It is time for our elected representatives in Sacramento to pass the Arts for Every Student Act. This moment can be the beginning of an expanded commitment to invest in our children and their future.

Ledisi Young is a 12-time Grammy-nominated R&B and jazz recording artist, actress and author. She can be contacted at