The World Musics Initiative, Inc. (WMI) is an outgrowth of the Latin Sounds Initiative, Inc. (LSI), a 501(c)3 nonprofit music education organization founded in 1999. Its mission: to advocate and be a resource for student instruction in and public performance of Latin/Afro-Latin music in Southland schools.
In 1999, Latino/Hispanic students comprised between 53%-89% of LAUSD’s 750,000+ student population. They also comprised the highest student dropout rate in the system. Classical music and Jazz were taught systemwide, but only one high school taught two genres of Latin music: Mariachi and Latin Jazz.
LSI’s Board met with district administrators to advocate for a broader inclusion of Latin and Afro-Latin music in LAUSD schools. We stressed that it should not be perceived merely as an accessory to education, but rather, as a catalyst to fostering a sense of identity, literacy and scholastic achievement in students. We further contended that cultural gaps of understanding between teachers and students alike could be bridged as Latino students develop an appreciation for the art of their own culture along with that of others. LSI’s Board was not taken seriously but we were given a go ahead to “see what you can do”.
The LSI began conducting open competitions and training middle and high school students from various schools to perform with major artists at the annual Latin Jazz and Salsa concerts at the Hollywood Bowl and other major venues until the year of 9/11. We also helped students qualify for scholarships and/or enrollment at USC; Cal Arts; Berklee in Boston; Juilliard. LSI also taught Drumming Circles to K-5, Middle and at risk High School and incarcerated students.
World Music Programs
A few years ago, we accepted a particularly challenging, but immeasurably rewarding, assignment to teach in some low performing schools and similar environments. It was an altering experience for both teachers and students — and caused us to further broaden our focus and advocate for the teaching of World Music histories to middle as well as high school students. Participating students from a broad spectrum of ethnicities really came alive when Ethnomusicologists, accompanied by music performers with various artifacts and props, demonstrated the evolution of particular ethnic traditions and musical genres.
We invite your interest and support.