According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), only 19 states provided funding for arts education grant programs in 2016. That’s just 38 percent of the country, and it shows the downward trend for arts programs in public schools; three years ago, “U.S. News” reported that since 2008, funds for schools had been cut in more than 80 percent of school districts – and arts programs are usually among the first curricular victims of budget cuts.
The importance of visual and performing arts programs – particularly music education – has been emphasized by everyone from educators and celebrities to scientists and students. Nonprofits and fundraising drives have appeared all over the country, including arts programs-deprived Arizona (which does not require credits in the arts for high school graduation, and does not require schools provide arts programs to be accredited). One of the local people trying to make a difference is Phoenix filmmaker Matty Steinkamp, creative director of Sundawg Media. He filmed and interviewed musicians, music educators, and students from all over the world for the documentary “Play,” to showcase the importance and magic of music in peoples’ lives. Among them are local music producer Bob Hoag, Phoenix-based musician Henri Bernard, and Nate Anderson of nonprofits Ear Candy and Little Kids Rock.
“Play: The Documentary” has screened in theaters around the U.S., and Steinkamp uses the screenings to raise funds for music education programs, and to provide instruments to schools. “Play” will show at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts in Gilbert on January 11, and all profits will go to the Foundation for Arts, Culture and Education of the East Valley (event details here ).
We recently caught up with Steinkamp to talk more about the movie and music education.
What prompted you to make "Play: The Documentary"?
I wanted to make my first feature film, a documentary, something that I was passionate about. Music has always been at the core of my passion throughout my entire life. I am not a professional musician now but I understand that the music classes I had in school growing up helped create the well-rounded person I am today. I want to help make sure children will always have the chance to play music.
Why is it important to keep music education in schools?
Music is a very important tool to teach children while they are developing. Singing and playing songs in a group or class together forces the child to have to listen and commit to being a part of something. Performing in front of other students, teachers, and parents builds self-esteem and confidence that cannot be matched by any other form of education. There are so many benefits to music education, it's amazing that so many schools in the U.S. stripped down their music programs over the past 13 years.
Who were some of the inspirational people you met while making this film?
Really everyone in the film is in some way inspiring. They are all amazing musicians. The one that stood out to me was David Wish from Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization. He was an elementary school teacher whose school took away their music programs, so he started teaching music in his class as part of his everyday routine. David founded Little Kids Rock to help get instruments back into the hands of public school students across the U.S. You see in the film that they have now donated thousands of instruments to schools all over the U.S. and continue to grow and help provide access every day. Just being around David in San Francisco at their summer concert was amazing. He truly walks the walk in doing anything he can to help make a positive impact on his students. This inspired me to want to make a very positive film.
What have been the positive outcomes and responses to "Play: The Documentary"?
We have screened the film in six theaters independently including Sedona, Long Beach, and Salt Lake City. Four sold out screenings in Phoenix at FilmBar that included the VIP screenings awarded through our successful Kickstarter. The film was an Official Selection at the 2016 Phoenix Film Festival. We recently signed with an independent distributor to help us host more screenings in theaters that benefit music nonprofits in the U.S. Each official screening benefits local music nonprofits directly from the ticket sales. It is our goal to give this film to nonprofits to be used as a fundraising event to help keep music in public schools.
Get your daily dose of culture with our curated picks of the best events and experiences in the Valley, from art and music to sports and the outdoors. Culture vultures can sign up for our Things to Do and VIP List newsletters for even more hip happenings.