EAST LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines gave his farewell address Tuesday as thousands of students prepare for the start of the school year.

Cortines, who stepped in to replace the John Deasy, spoke to students at Garfield High in East Los Angeles Tuesday about the importance of music education and striving for greatness.

“Music and art are basic, as basic as reading, computation and all of the other things we do,” Cortines said.

With that pronouncement, Cortines announced that there will now be music programs in all of the district’s middle schools.

As he prepares to step down, Cortines said he hopes his successor will help all students, especially poor students.

“I just don’t believe we can abandon urban education and especially children that don’t speak English, children who are poor,” he said. “I feel as strongly today at 83, as when I started in 1956 as a teacher.”

His successor has not yet been chosen, but Cortines did offer this advice.

“Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh, have a good time, but this job needs somebody who understands that you have to work at it every day,” Cortines said.