I Believe The Detroit Public Schools Matter by Cornell Batie, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Detroit Jazz Festival

April 16, 2015

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[/column] [column type=”3/4″ last=”true”] The very best part of my day happens every morning at 8 AM when I drop my son Sydney off at school.  Sydney is now a sophomore at Cass Tech high school. For those few moments every morning I see not only the hope and smile of learning on my sons face, but I also see the hope and opportunity of Detroit looking at hundreds of young Detroit students bright eyed and ready to learn. Watching Sydney as he jumps out of the car, gives me that morning “thanks Dad” farewell and races into the building gives me inspiration for the rest of my day.  Knowing my son is surrounded by an environment of learning, of exploration, of community and pride is all I need to move me along to get my day underway. [/column] [clear]

Much is said about what’s wrong with education in Detroit.  A lot of what’s said is true.  What goes unspoken however is that just like me, every morning thousands of other Detroit parents are out there walking or driving their children to school.  We’re all stepping up and actively managing the lives of our children and their education.   I wish more people would talk about those of us that are doing the right thing – or maybe acknowledge that for every bad story, there just might be a success story waiting to be told.   Here’s one that you’ve probably never heard.

Several years ago the Detroit Jazz Festival answered a call to step up and get involved in the Detroit Public Schools.  We didn’t do it for publicity and we didn’t do it because we thought it would impact our annual Labor Day Weekend festival.  We decided that the story of music and jazz in Detroit had to be told, and frankly we were horrified at the prospect of students not having access to musical instruments, instruction and knowledge of the amazing contributions Detroiters have made to America’s musical invention.  Today, the DPS All-City Youth Jazz Band is a product of seven jazz infusion programs we’ve created in partnership with DPS.  The Jazz Festival has secured their instruments, provided instruction and coaching, and created exciting enrichment experiences for our future musicians.  Maybe you saw them at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe jamming with 2014 Artist in Residence Joshua Redman, or performing on the main porch of the Grand Hotel during the Mackinac Policy Conference?  Today, several of our alumni are pursuing music professionally or continuing their education with a scholarship they earned for college as a result of our partnership.

Much is said about Detroit’s comeback from the brink of disaster as a city.  More needs to be said about the healing of its soul – and the story I want to tell starts every morning in front of a DPS school building.  It’s just a typical Tuesday here in the city.  “Have a great day at school Sydney!”

 

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