This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
As the School District of Philadelphia rebuilds its music program, data shows that more than 50 schools still don’t have instrumental music instruction through the district — and that those schools serve disproportionately high numbers of minority students.
The new numbers come courtesy of City Councilwoman Helen Gym’s office, which requested them from the district.
The school district has 66 itinerant instrumental music teachers who travel from school to school and another 20 school-based instrumental music teachers. Despite the efforts of those teachers, 51 Philadelphia schools do not have any sort of instrumental music instruction provided by the district.
The schools without instrumental music are concentrated in North and West Philadelphia. They also tend to serve relatively few white students.
Districtwide, white students make up 13.81 percent of the student body. But at the 51 Philadelphia schools without instrumental music, 50 have a lower-than-average ratio of white students.
Meanwhile, according to an analysis by Gym’s office, among district schools where at least a third of students are white, all offer instrumental music.
"When the data shows that black and Latino youth in the poorest sections of the city are denied access to arts in schools, we have to do something about it," said Gym.
Though there’s a correlation between schools without instrumental music instruction and schools serving minority students, establishing cause is far trickier.