Keeping the Beat

School districts are straining to deliver a quality education to all their students in this difficult economy, and things can be especially tough on music teachers.  Across the country, shrinking school budgets have meant layoffs, increased workloads, cuts in funds for facilities and instruments, and even the elimination of music programs. 

In a new Department of Education video called Keeping the Beat: A Teacher Talks About Schools, Music Education and the American Jobs Act, Philadelphia music teacher Jason (Jay) Chuong discusses the impact of the economic downturn on the learning environment of his inner city students. As one of six “itinerant” percussion teachers in the Philadelphia school district, Jay conducts classes in seven different schools and has a budget of just $100. His solution: teaching bucket drumming, using inexpensive plastic buckets that he can purchase at the local hardware store.

 Jay says that the American Jobs Act would offer much-needed funds to repair his school district’s aging facilities and keep teachers on the job. “If the American Jobs Act is passed, we would put more money in modernizing schools, we would offer work for construction workers, we would hire back more teachers, we would do all kinds of things for the younger generation of the cities,” he says. 

In the meantime, Jay remains on the move, going from school to school, teaching his classes in percussion and giving his students other important lessons as well. “Music has the opportunity to develop confidence in kids,” he says. “It gives them something to take ownership of. It develops team working skills; it’s all of these life skills that they can apply to all different parts of life.”

Watch Keeping the Beat:

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.


  1. I think what you see here is so typical of urban school districts. Why is it that we are teaching in aged buildings? We need to cut pork spending and get back to the basics: education, roads, and health care. The time is now. Lets build America. I feel bad for Philidelphia. A city of that size should have large bands. This poor teacher is using buckets. This is a “have” vs. “have not” scenerio. This is not equitable!

  2. Have a bucket brigade and march through the town for support and for fundraising. BECAUSE there are kids with dreams of playing the Trumpet or the Piano or the Piccolo or the Flute or the Violin or ……..the Cello! or get their hands on a kettle drum.
    You must let the community help you!!!! Let them know what you have done with $100 and they will trust you with $10,000. My hopes and prayers for your music students . KSE
    Collect old unused instruments too!

  3. You are an inspiration! Thank you for your heart. Continue to allow your love and passion to flow. Lives are being changed. You are bringing hope. May God continue to bless you and the lives of these precious children.

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