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What is CHAMPS?

Chamber Music in Public Schools (CHAMPS) is the educational arm of Salon Concerts, Inc. Founded in 1991 by Robert Rudié with only a handful of students, this nationally recognized program currently provides weekly professional chamber music and private lesson instruction in 16 schools across four school districts, and serves close to 100 middle and high school students each year.

CHAMPS students come from varied diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and musical experience, and leave the program with a life-long appreciation for music. Students develop leadership, communication and critical thinking skills as they work together to coordinate parts and create an artistic interpretation of the music.

In addition to in-school coaching sessions, CHAMPS students participate in master classes by renowned artists, perform at Salon Concerts’ house concerts & semester recitals, and bring classical music to retirement homes, schools, hospitals, and charity events.

CHAMPS collaborates with the University of Texas Butler School of Music and Balcones Community Orchestra, as well as other organizations.

Toby Blumenthal-Phillips - Director of CHAMPS,

Leah Nelson - Associate Director of CHAMPS

For more information about CHAMPS, or to engage a CHAMPS ensemble, contact Leah Nelson, CHAMPS Associate Director, at

Participate in CHAMPS

CHAMPS groups are selected based on audition and/or recommendation from the school’s orchestra director. A student must be a member of the school’s orchestra to participate in CHAMPS.

CHAMPS instruction is provided once a week in school, for 26 weeks over fall and spring semesters. Tuition is on a sliding scale to allow students to participate in CHAMPS regardless of income. Students from Title I schools participate free of charge. Each CHAMPS school has a parent liaison who helps students set up student-led rehearsals, arrange outreach performances, and help with the annual fundraiser.

As a benefit of CHAMPS, all CHAMPS students may receive one complimentary ticket to each Salon Concerts House Concert. One parent may attend the concert with their child at the “student” ticket price. Many CHAMPS groups will also have an opportunity to perform at a Salon Concert, at the beginning of the concert. Being selected for this performance is a significant honor. These students as well as their parents are invited to attend the entire concert as guests.

All students and parents need to reserve their seats one week in advance if they plan to attend a Salon Concert. Attendance includes the concert and the post-concert buffet of hors d’oeuvres and wine.

Benefits of an Arts Education

The academic and social benefits of arts education are broad and substantive, especially for youth from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Results of four longitudinal studies of 25,000 secondary school students demonstrate that among low SES youth, sustained arts involvement is associated with significantly higher academic achievement (e.g., science and writing test scores, completing calculus, honor society election, h.s. graduation, college enrollment), participation in extracurricular activities, and civic engagement (e.g., volunteering, voting).

When low-SES students have a history of intensive arts experiences, they show achievement levels closer to and sometimes exceeding that of the general population, suggesting that in-school or extracurricular arts involvement may help narrow the gap in achievement levels among youth of high- versus low-SES (1).

Music training in particular is associated with stronger executive functions such as attention, inhibition, memory, planning and task switching (8) as well as spatial reasoning (9), verbal memory (7), and higher SAT scores (6). Students with formal instrumental music instruction in middle school perform better in algebra, and the instruction affects the achievement of black students to a greater degree than white students (4). This is particularly crucial because algebra is a gateway to later achievement (10). Secondary students who participate in band or orchestra report the lowest lifetime and current use of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs (5).

Arts education enhances post-secondary academic and life success as well, and this is particularly significant for English Language Learners (2). Participation in arts programs among at-risk youth is associated with better preparation for future employment, including lower absenteeism, better acquisition of job skills, creative thinking, problem solving and communications skills (3).

  1. J.S. Catterall. S.A. Dumais & G. Hampden-Thompson, 2012. The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies. National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C.
  2. J.S. Catterall, 2009. Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art: The Effects of Education in the Visual and Performing Arts on the Achievement and Values of Young Adults. Imagination Group/I-Group Books, Los Angeles/London.
  3. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, 2002. Issue Brief: The Impact of Arts Education on Workforce Preparation.
  4. Helmrich, B.H. 2010. Window of opportunity? Adolescence, music and algebra. Journal of Adolescent Research, 25 (4).
  5. Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Report. Reported in Houston Chronicle, January 1998.
  6. The College Board, 2012. 2012 College-Bound Seniors: Total Group Profile Report.
  7. Ho, Y. C., Cheung, M. C., & Chan, 2003. Music training improves verbal but not visual memory: cross-sectional and longitudinal explorations in children. Neuropsychology, July: 17(3): 439-50.
  8. Dege, F., Kubricek, C & Schwarzer, G. 2011. Music lessons and intelligence: a relation mediated by executive functions. Music Perception, 29 (2), 195-201.
  9. Hetland, L. 2000. Learning to make music enhances spatial reasoning. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 34 (3/4),179-238.
  10. U.S. Department of Education, 2008. The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel.

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