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Budget cuts are costing many American students their arts education. As a wanna-be artist and overall proponent of all things creative, I have long valued the impact of arts education – especially in public schools. Unfortunately, these are the programs that are too often cut when budgets are slashed and difficult decisions must be made.

OK, so you probably won’t argue with me that art is important – after all, as children, it’s how we learned a lot of things, right? Who doesn’t have at least one thing they use a song to remember? I only have to key into the tune of ’3 blind mice’ to remember how to calculate the area of a circle (thanks to Mr. Bowlware, my fourth grade math teacher).

LAUSD students participate in BridgingGapsconcert

Studies show, too, that arts-engaged students show more positive outcomes in a variety of areas than their low-arts-engaged peers – especially in socially and economically disadvantaged student populations. This is exactly what makes programs like Fred Martin’s Urban Entertainment Institute (UEI) so valuable – and inspiring.

For years, UEI has offered after school arts education to urban Los Angeles youth in exchange for their commitment to work hard at school and steer clear of drugs, gangs and other activities threatening their success. When Fred Martin discovered the power of telepresence to expand the UEI message and reach even more students, the Bridging the Gaps concert was born.

This year, on May 22nd, the concert will once again connect urban Los Angeles area students with other arts-engaged students around the country – along with a celebrity or two – as they join together in song from a “virtual stage” via telepresence.

It’s truly awe-inspiring to see, and if you can make it, I highly encourage checking out the live stream of the event on May 22nd at 6pm Pacific/9pm Eastern. Register to view for the link and more details, and join in the conversation on twitter with the hashtag #BridgingGapsConcert.

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