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Hedge Fund Managers in Tune With School Needs

Susan Notes:

With plenty of bad things to say about people at hedge funds, it is only fair to report some good news. I have real doubts that participating in a music program helps a student's study habits, and I don't give a fig. Some things should be prized for their own value. Music is one of them. We don't need to tack on bells and whistles. There are no comments from WSJ readers is not surprising. There's no school-bashing to gloat over here.

By Shelly Banjo

Hedge fund managers Gordon and Paul Singer are bringing music back to New Jersey public schools.

The father and son, who run New York-based hedge fund Elliott Management Corp., will be restoring instrumental music programs at the Nicolaus Copernicus and Jotham W. Wakeman elementary schools in Jersey City this fall through the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, a nonprofit that restores music education to America's public schools.

Since 2006, the Singers have given $500,000 to the foundation, enabling them to save programs in 17 public schools across New Jersey.

"Kids who have access to music education do better on reading and math; it connects them more with the school and lowers truancy," said 36-year-old Gordon Singer, who heads Elliott Management's London office and joined the board of the VH1 Save the Music Foundation in 2007.

"With increasing budget cuts and pressures on music and art programs, restoring these programs has never been more important," he said.

To be eligible for a grant from the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, school districts must commit to funding certified teachers and salaries, providing maintenance and space, and scheduling instrumental music classes during the school day. The charity then provides a brand-new set of instruments for the school, typically worth around $30,000.

"In the past 30 years, there's been a mindset that music isn't an integral part of education but that it's an add-on, and we are working to change that," said Paul Cothran, the charity's executive director and vice president.

"The biggest challenge to restoring a program for most schools is the initial capital needed to purchase instruments," he said. "But it's important to require a commitment from the school district to ensure the sustainability of the music programs."

Family patriarch Paul Singer noted that supporting the VH1 Save the Music Foundation fits into the overall giving strategy of the family: leverage.

"We're looking for our money to create benefits way beyond our initial outlay," said the 65-year-old Mr. Singer, who started one of the oldest hedge funds in 1977 and is perhaps best known for his $20 million investment in the distressed debt of Peru in 1995, as well as multi-million dollar donations to political causes, education, military veterans and women's rights charities, and conservative think tanks.

"In another form of leverage, musical education has benefits to the participants way beyond the initial music classes: It teaches kids good organizational skills, study habits and how to get along with others," he said.

Write to Shelly Banjo at shelly.banjo@wsj.com

— Shelly Banjo
Wall Street Journal



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