The White Hall Arts Academy (WHAA) is a performing and visual arts education facility in South Los Angeles. Founded in 2011, by Berklee College of Music alumna Tanisha Hall, the White Hall Arts Academy offers a blend of classical and contemporary arts training to children and adults. South LA, in the U.S.’s second largest city and home to a multicultural mix of 75,000 middle and lower income residents, is an arts desert.
Seeking to make a difference, Tanisha Hall began offering low cost private music lessons in her home in 2002. As word spread, the escalating demand led to the idea of a conservatory-style school serving the community. In 2011, Tanisha transitioned from her 15-year music industry career to a fulltime music educator. The White Hall Arts Academy was born, housed in a building owned by her grandparents. Now, six years later, the WHAA has instructed over 5,000 students through private lessons in studio and online. With ten instructor staff teaching daily lessons, even this number is not meeting the demand. WHAA’s expanded offering includes dance and fitness classes, and hopes to one day include visual arts and theatre arts programs. Among other partnerships, in January 2014, WHAA and Project MuszEd entered into a collaboration to offer a free after-school community music program of classes for children ages 4-18. The program began with 25 children and in a year, enrollment had grown to over 125 children.
However, for all the successes, there have been many challenges. In late 2015, a critical financial partner ended its support of the flourishing community music program. This loss was valued at $60,000 annually and nearly $20,000 of instruments. Tanisha was faced with the prospect of denying students the opportunity and shuttering the program, but chose to continue the program with her own funds. By using her salary to cover the expenses, those 125 students could still receive music instruction.
Today, unwavering in commitment to the community, Tanisha and her team continue to work diligently to raise funds to continue the community group classes and replace the instruments. Unfortunately, due to the financial burden, the community music program classes were forced to be suspended for much of 2017. During this time, the program was downsized to fit current budget and instrument availability. WHAA’s community program now operates on a shoestring, serving the neighborhood at half capacity. In October 2017, the group classes were reintroduced as a Saturday program offering unlimited music classes for $25 per month. The changes mean that only 50 of the program’s original 125 students are able to continue.
For more than six years, WHAA has succeeded at not only serving the underserved, but connecting them with opportunities outside of the program. Success stories include students who have appeared in numerous movies, commercials and television series including American Idol and The Voice. In August 2016, the community program students were featured on actor Keith Robinson’s song “Undefeated”. Additionally, WHAA has been featured on reality television shows highlighting the impact of inner city youth music education. WHAA supports personal growth through enriching experiences such as these.
You can support and sustain performing and visual arts in South LA through the White Hall Arts Academy Foundation. WHAA needs donations to resume weekday community classes, replace the instruments and establish a media lab. Ultimately, WHAA hopes to extend beyond music; Tanisha hopes to someday foster personal growth through mediums including digital media arts and technology. With your tax-deductible contribution to the WHAA Foundation, the WHAA can continue to teach, grow, and connect students across artistic communities at large.