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Milwaukee Kids Get Their Groove Back

South Africa's goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune dives for the ball during a training session at Rand Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, June 24, 2009. South Africa will face Brazil in a semifinal match in the Confederations Cup soccer tournament on Thursday.
AP Photo/Themba Hadebe
It's been a long time since the sounds of music were heard in elementary schools here, but after years of budget cuts Milwaukee is getting its groove back.

And to celebrate, VH-1 brought in the VIPs. "Hootie" singer Darius Rucker left the Blowfish behind and joined some middle schoolers up on stage.

"Madison Square Garden is wonderful, you know, but I got invited to sing the national anthem with four kids today," said Rucker. "In school, music was everything to me. A lot of days it was the only reason I went to school. It really was because you get up and you really don't want to take the English test, but I don't want to miss chorus."

Of course, not every kid is going to grow up to be a rock star, but music education has been shown to improve other skills as well. Like test taking, for example. The Early Show's Tracy Smith reports that the average music education student scores nearly 100 points higher on their SATs.

"It's reinforcing math, but also you're reinforcing reading and writing," said Milwaukee music superintendent Barry Applewhite. According to Applewhite, the music program will be sustained through support from the school's board of directors, the Milwaukee public schools board and their superintendent.

"They have already shown their commitment," said Applewhite. "They have set aside moneys so that every student in elementary can have music, instrumental music."

The program will help students like Rebecca Greer who, last year, began playing the saxophone -- just like the guest of honor she introduced.

"And now, I would like to introduce the 42nd President of the United States and fellow saxophonist, President Bill Clinton," said Greer.

Clinton has said that he might never have been president if it wasn't for school music.

"I think it was a big part of my life," said Clinton. "I loved the band. I loved the competitions and the ensembles. It gave me a chance to go to summer camp and learn how to organize people and develop leadership skills. And playing, doing something I love that required discipline and sustained effort and creativity was a great preparation for a life in politics."

According to Clinton, a lot of schools can learn from what's happening in Milwaukee.

"First they can learn that you can do it. It's amazing how quickly you can reestablish a music program that works and operates at a fairly high level of quality," said Clinton. "Secondly they can know that if like Milwaukee, the citizens of other communities will go out and raise some money, that we in 'Save the Music' will find national efforts to match their money or to give them the instruments or to do both. And so they don't have to do it all themselves and the whole idea of Save the Music is you don't have to do it all yourself. We'll help you, but you got to do your part."