Turnaround Arts, a music education program affiliated with the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, has announced the expansion of its program to 54 high-poverty schools across the country. The expansion includes the involvement of many famous names who will be "Turnaround Artists," with Jack Johnson, Pearl Jam's Mike McCready and Elton John among those working in participating schools.
"My love of music started as a kid strumming the ukulele in the elementary classroom," Johnson tells Rolling Stone about his decision to involve himself with Turnaround. "By serving as a Turnaround Artist for Hawai'i, I'm excited to bring music and ideas to the students. I hope to inspire the kids to dream big and help to create an environment of joy and possibility in their classrooms."
A hefty roster of performers — including award-winning actors like Alfre Woodard, Forest Whitaker and Kerry Washington — have been participating in Turnaround since its launch four years ago. Cameron Diaz, Jason Mraz, Marc Anthony and Rashida Jones will also join the program as it expands.
Launched in 2011, the pilot program began with eight schools and is now a presence in 15 states, helping to bring resources, supplies and talent to lower income schools. For many of the institutions, Turnaround brings in the school's first-ever arts program. "Having the ability to act and sing within a school environment changed the way I learned and made friends," new Turnaround Artist Josh Groban said in a statement. "I'm thrilled to be continuing with Turnaround Arts in making access to the arts a reality for kids across America."
Last year, Barack Obama made a surprise appearance at a White House talent show thrown by wife Michelle featuring students in the Turnaround Arts program. "The arts are central to who we are as a people and they are central to the success of our kids," President Obama said. "This is not an afterthought. This is not something you do because it's nice to do. It is necessary for these young people to succeed that we promote the arts. I hope that events like this help send a message to school districts and parents and governors and leaders all across this country to support the arts. It's a priority."
Michelle Obama noted the value of arts education in schools, with studies showing that schools with access to arts have better grades, higher rates of college enrollment, increased attendance and marked decreases in disciplinary problems.
Turnaround will be now working in new schools in Bridgeport, CT, Broward County, FL, Hawai'i, New York City and Washington D.C.