Teacher Jasmyne Pope and her students enjoy a photo op during music rehearsal. (Courtesy photo)

In the current climate of today’s popular music, many youth in Los Angeles are not deeply exposed to live instruments.  Many of the most popular current artists in urban markets rely mainly on computer based platforms for music composition, performance and recording.

Prior to this year, Dorsey High School had not had a live performance band since 2015.  As a result, aspiring songwriters, performers and instrumentalists in the school community have had to focus solely on computer-based programming.

Now however, there is a change on the horizon.  Enter Jasmyne Pope, Dorsey High School’s new band teacher.  Ms. Pope has implemented a renewed vision to create exposure to instrumental music for the school and for the community.  She has created a course schedule, which includes Modern Band, Performance Band and Music Appreciation.

The Performance Band provided five performances this past semester and was well received. The performances brought excitement, curiosity, interest and motivation to the students and faculty at Dorsey High School.

Pope demonstrates a fun rhythm on the drums. (Courtesy photo)

“It was exciting and encouraging to see the joy that the live performances created amongst the students.  It made me proud to be able to showcase the talent that we have at here Dorsey High School,” said Pope.

“It has brought out the creative energy and motivation amongst the students, and many students have approached me to inquire about getting into the program and learning how to play instruments.”

Jasmyne Pope was born in New York and graduated from Emerson College in Massachusetts with a B.A. in Creative Writing.  She received her Master’s degree in African American and Cinema Studies from NYU where she also taught narrative journalism.   She moved to LA in 2018 as a freelance screenwriting consultant.  On the suggestion of her mother, she applied for a teaching position in LAUSD.   The pandemic year of 2019-20 was her first school year.

As a substitute teacher, Pope has worked all over the LAUSD, North, South, West and East.  She speaks candidly about her journey.

Dorsey Band members pose with Jasmyne Pope during a break. (Courtesy photo)

“The biggest challenge for new teachers in LA is the bureaucracy and unrealistic requirements.  The red tape involved with getting started is a roadblock, which turns many talented individuals away from the field of education.  Some of the requirements need to be reviewed and streamlined.  Different ways to gauge qualifications need to be developed, ” said Pope, who currently completing the tedious LAUSD credentialing process.

She also noticed resource disparities throughout the District.  “Students in underserved areas have less access to instrumental music.  For example, the cost of owning an instrument and taking lessons can be burdensome for many urban families.   The availability of adequate practice spaces can also be an issue.  The more inequities I saw, the more motivated I was to stay and try to make a difference, and now I have been with the District for 4 years,” said Pope.

Ms. Pope, who is classically trained as a pianist, appears to have found a home at Dorsey and her students have embraced her.  Denzel Dawson, a 10th grade drummer, stated, “This program has changed my life tremendously.  It helped me with my grades, my character and my anger issues.  It is giving me a positive focus to direct my energies into.”

Destiny Martinez, an 11th grade guitarist, singer and songwriter said, “Joining the music program has impacted me in many ways.  I met amazing musicians and finally became a part of a band.  Making music was always my passion.  Being in Ms. Pope’s room is very comforting.  It’s honestly my second home and I can’t wait to make more music and memories with the program.”

Maki Draper, a 10th grade bassist and vocalist, shared, “It’s hard to accurately express my feelings towards Ms. Pope, my peers, and the program itself.  Ms. Pope gave me an opportunity to express my passion of music to a larger group and to make a second family with the other members of this program.  I’m forever thankful for this experience and how it has positively changed the trajectory of my life.”

Moving forward, Pope plans to expand the Modern Band Program to include digital music production and engineering.  “We have been in touch with industry professionals such as DJ Mustard who is a one of the top producers in the music industry and also a Dorsey alumni.

“We would like to network with him to create internships as well as songwriting, production and publishing workshops for our students.  He and his representatives are on board with the idea.  We are also planning exciting field trips to concerts, the Grammy Museum and other engaging activities for our students,” said Pope.

With art and music programs struggling to stay afloat in schools throughout the country, Dorsey High School is fortunate to have a young energetic teacher with a creative vision who cares about exposing students to the art of music, noted one of her colleagues.

“Ms. Pope is off to a great start and we want to support and nurture this program so that it will continue to grow and develop, positivity impacting the school and the broader community by creating creative outlets for young people not only to express their musical talents and ideas, but to gain access and exposure to career opportunities within the music industry,” said a fellow teacher.