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learn / 2020

Music Forward: Helping Engage our Youth through Careers in the Music Industry

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Music Forward Foundation

Music Forward empowers young people to follow their dreams into the music industry and enrich it with their diverse voices and perspectives. In 2020, Music Forward will launch a refreshed and expanded youth development program serving twice the number of musically talented 14 to 24-year-old residents of Greater Los Angeles, and more effectively reach those who are living in low-income, underserved communities. New partnerships with the LA City Economic & Workforce Development Department (EWWD) and ReLAY Institute will help us reach these goals.

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

  • ReLAY (Reconnecting Los Angeles Youth)
  • Economic & Workforce Development Department (EWDD)
  • City of Los Angeles

If you are submitting a collaborative proposal, please describe the specific role of partner organizations in the project.

Collaborations with LA City EWWD and ReLAY, a CSU5 initiative headquartered at California State University, Northridge, will help increase our ability to recruit youth and assess impact. Music Forward will bring programs focusing on work readiness, career exploration, and job skills training for the music industry to EWWD YouthSource Centers. Additionally, ReLAY will help us build research on the barriers to access in the music industry and implement initiatives to break down these barriers.

What is the need you’re responding to?

Today’s youth in LA County face a crisis when it comes to education and employment. 11.7% of young people ages 16-24 are disconnected, meaning they are not currently enrolled in school or working and that disconnection is even greater for people of color.

Also, the music industry continues to lack diversity at the highest levels of influence. Today there is just one female producer for every 37 male producers. And only 10% of music executives listed on Billboard’s Top 100 are people of color. Music Forward addresses these sobering statistics by helping underrepresented youth turn their passion for music into professions and by creating a platform for industry leaders to connect with and mentor young, diverse voices.

After a thoughtful, 10-month assessment our 2020 programs are shifting to increase performance opportunities, improve mentorship effectiveness and provide greater access for underrepresented youth. It will also include digital strategies developed over the past few weeks.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?

Music Forward has served Los Angeles youth since 1994, and in recent years expanded its traditional arts education program to help fill the void in creative workforce development opportunities available to youth.

We offer two tracks – Artist and Career Development. Our artist development program connects aspiring young musicians to music industry mentors who help them build self-confidence, learn new marketable skills, and connect with audiences. Our career development program brings high school and college students into music venues, offices, and studios to discover careers in the music industry and build professional networks.

Music Forward offers unmatched insider access to music industry leaders and mentors at no cost to participants. Our participants join a robust alumni program that facilitates paid gigs, job shadows, and additional learning opportunities with coveted music industry partners. And we are continually working to improve our services and impact.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

Music is a powerful force in society – a universal language that connects us all culturally and emotionally. That’s why it is so important to ensure diverse voices are represented at all levels of creation and dissemination.

Music also has the power to inspire youth to dream. Music Forward facilitates access to creative sector careers but also helps youth master competitive performance, business, and management skills that would be attractive to any employer in any industry. While all young people are invited to participate, we focus our recruitment on those currently underrepresented in the music industry (students of color, women, and from low-income households) through our network of partners, schools and community-based organizations.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

Music Forward’s project GOALS are to:

1) Increase participation in our SoCal programs by 50% with a focus on low-income youth, women and underrepresented voices.

2) Reduce youth disengagement by recruiting affected youth and using music as the gateway to alternative education and careers.

3) Use and share knowledge gained through research to break down barriers and increase opportunities in the music industry.

The OUTCOMES for program participants are:

1) CONNECTION: Increase sense of competence, confidence, contribution, caring, and connection through hands-on learning, mentorship and peer support.

2) CAREER SKILLS: Greater knowledge of the music industry and other related careers; Improved ability to network, interview and pursue employment in the creative sector.

3) PERSONAL ENRICHMENT: A greater understanding of how their personal goals and preferences can guide them in identifying a future career; personal growth through encounters with different voices and viewpoints.

4) PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: For those youth participating in the emerging artist track, performance opportunities and feedback from professionals help develop their repertoire and stage presence.

We’ll track our goals and outcomes through qualitative and quantitative means including pre- and post-program surveys and staff assessments. Volunteers, industry mentors, and partners are also surveyed on the value of their experience as it relates to personal and professional priorities and the quality of program content.

Which of the learn metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Arts education
  • Opportunity youth (“Disengaged youth” 16-24 not working or in school)

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?

  • LA is the best place to CREATE

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?

  • Access to the LA2050 community
  • Communications support
  • Strategy assistance and implementation