Anthropos Arts spreads wealth with music


Members from The School of Rock who played with James Williamson of Iggy and The Stooges, far right, prepare to take a bow at the Austin Kiddie Limits stage Sunday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

For 14 years, Anthropos Arts has been instructing at-risk students with musical inclinations. Focusing on Latin and jazz music, the organization sends teachers to supplement band programs in low-income schools all over the Austin and Manor Independent School Districts. The nonprofit has educated thousands of students through more than 10,000 lessons and $1 million in services.

This year at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Anthropos Arts had five music students play on stage with the School of Rock at the Austin Kiddie Limits stage. They were showcased in a booth as part of ACL Cares, a program that showcases ACL’s versatility and commitment to Austin’s overall well-being.

“We love being here, it’s our third year and second that we’ve had students play,” Dylan Jones, the founder and program director of Anthropos Arts, said. “It’s great to help these young artists feel like they’re part of the community; it’s a huge confidence boost for them.”

The high schools where the program has been started have an average 60 percent graduation rate. Astoundingly, 100 percent of the students enrolled in Anthropos have graduated with a high school diploma and 80 percent of them have matriculated to college with music-related scholarships. Over the last two years, all of the program’s seniors have earned college scholarships. 

“[East Side Memorial] was shut down for poor performance,” Jose Ahumada, an Anthropos alumnus said. “The school was just in a bad place, and I happened to be there.”

Since then, Ahumada earned a scholarship for baritone to Prairie View A&M University and participated in the school’s marching band. Ahumada also plays bass clarinet, trumpet and saxophone.

Commitment to playing music often spills over to other aspects of student life including academics.

“Caring about an instrument and your craft leads to caring for yourself, which leads to caring about your community. It’s a chain reaction,” said Aaron Day, chairman of the Board
of Directors.

Anthropos coordinates with school band programs that can’t afford to heavily invest in their students. They pay local Austin musicians to teach and commute to public middle and high schools every school day to offer private, one-on-one lessons.

“Paying the teachers to teach lessons supports two communities, both the local Austin musicians who need a steady income and the kids that’ll be musicians in the future,” Day said.

Because of the lack of arts funding in the public school system, many students in low-income districts do not receive the support or individual attention they need in a pedagogical environment.

“We specifically target the most dedicated students that are held back,” Jones said. “We’re filling the void in Austin of kids that want to study music but can’t
afford it.”

Athropos also hosts workshops led exclusively by Grammy Award-winning artists like Esperanza Spalding, who won the award for Best New Artist, and Grupo Fantasma, who won Best Latin Rock album in 2011.

The School of Rock has cooperated with the group since last year, and the two organizations host shows together to exhibit the best young musicians in Austin.

“What Anthropos Arts is doing is absolutely great. It’s great for both the community and for kids,” Yvonne Lu, the studio coordinator for the School of Rock, said. “The free aspect of the program gives great opportunities to kids that couldn’t play music otherwise.”

The long-term goal of Athropos is to expand into other school districts outside of Austin, but for now the students are engaging in a program that does more than teach them to
play instruments. 

“We’re not necessarily trying to make them professional musicians or I would cherry-pick the best ones in every grade,” Jones said. “We’re trying to teach them good habits and build their confidence.“