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Erb Family Foundation helps bring CMS Jazz to Detroit Youth

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In a time of declining resources for the arts, young musicians in Southeast Michigan have new assets to explore jazz. The MSU College of Music recently expanded its Community Music School (CMS) to Detroit and the Erb Family Foundation provided a $50,000 grant to support MSU Jazz@CMS Detroit, providing new opportunities for positive youth development through music.

            The grant provides programmatic support for top-quality jazz music education for Detroit urban youth, building on MSU’s participation in jazz learning at Youthville and with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO). 
“We are pleased to be able to help MSU establish its new jazz education program in Detroit.  MSU faculty and graduate students have worked in the city for years through jazz education programs such as the DSO.  We are excited about the synergies that the new Community Music School will bring to significantly expand such educational offerings,” said the foundation’s president, John Erb, son of Barbara and Fred, founder of Erb Lumber. “The arts are a critical element of a sustainable community and my father has always had a particular fondness for jazz.  By providing a premier educational opportunity for young musicians, MSU’s Jazz@CMS Detroit will help assure the continuation of Detroit’s legacy as a source of world-class musical talent.”
Witnessing a gap in music education in Detroit while directing the Civic Jazz Ensemble for youth at the DSO, MSU College of Music Jazz Studies Director and Professor Rodney Whitaker conceived of the idea for MSU Jazz@CMS Detroit. “Detroit youth often lack the tools to prepare for the Civic Jazz Ensemble audition,” Whitaker said. He has designed the program to not only improve the music skills of Detroit youth, but also to mentor them and reinforce the benefits of music education. The jazz offerings will occur outside the normal school day on a sliding fee scale, with some classes subsidized by scholarships.
Community Music School is the outreach arm of the College of Music. The college initiated CMS Detroit in response to the community’s desire for enhanced music education and performance opportunities, explains Rhonda Buckley, associate dean for outreach and engagement and executive director of the CMS. “The programs are built on the knowledge that exposure to music dramatically enhances learning, life skills, cognitive development, social awareness and problem solving—all skills that are transferable and necessary in these changing economic times,” Buckley said.
MSU expanded its presence in Southeast Michigan this fall, opening a new facility at 3408 Woodward Avenue in Detroit to accommodate CMS Detroit, as well as a new headquarters for College of Education teaching interns, and offices for Admissions, University Advancement and Government Affairs.
Erb Lumber grew to 45 Midwest locations and endowed the Erb Family Foundation with a mission to nurture environmentally healthy and culturally vibrant communities in metropolitan Detroit and to support initiatives to restore the Great Lakes Basin.
For more information on making a gift to the College of Music or CMS Detroit, contact Director of Development Rebecca Surian at (517) 353-9872.