The hushed vocals, layered, fuzzy instrumentals, and often dark lyrics of indie rock band Warpaint might not be the obvious choice for a high school music class, but teacher Bretton Boyd picks tunes that appeal to his students—and they can’t get enough of the rock quartet's tunes.
Music students at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles were in for a big surprise when Warpaint’s singer and guitarist, Theresa Wayman, showed up to hear them cover one of the band’s songs. Wayman was impressed with the students and with Boyd’s class, which went far beyond teaching guitar to include stage production, recording, and songwriting.
“It’s really an invaluable class, really,” said Wayman in a new Good series that focuses on musicians and the causes near to their hearts. For Wayman, that’s music education.
That’s why the band stepped in to help when it heard that Boyd’s guitar classes were cut from the school’s curriculum owing to slashed arts budgets in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
In February, Warpaint threw a concert to raise money for the music classes.
The benefits of music classes are well known and widespread. Students who play an instrument have a stronger vocabulary and score higher on standardized tests. Schools with music programs have higher attendance levels and graduation rates.
“Putting instruments in the hands of kids is as important as test tubes or computers ever could be,” said Boyd.
Yet, arts courses are often the first to go when schools need to save cash. Between 2000 and 2008, the number of California students enrolled in music programs dropped by 57 percent, primarily because of a lack of funding, according to the California Alliance for Arts Education. It’s only getting worse: In 2009, sixty percent of California school districts cut funding for arts programs, and 20 percent cut the programs altogether.
Warpaint’s concert helped raise enough money for one year of guitar classes for some 400 students at Marshall High in the 2015–16 school year, but with more budget cuts coming down from the state, the class could be eliminated without further support.
This story was originally published on Take Part.