Let me begin by saying that I support a total Arts Program in the Schools. I believe that Art, Music, Dance and Drama are all extremely important for a quality education, and are worthy and deserving of funding. However, I would rather one QUALITY program over a bunch of mediocre programs or no programs at all. That being said, I know music, music is my world, and I will advocate for music in this particular situation.
This particular post may become somewhat personal, as it is the result of receiving some extremely unnerving and sad news. Earlier this week my husband was told that his contract would not be renewed next year. My husband is a music teacher, and of the three in the district, he is the most recent hire. He was told that this was in no way a personal attack, but strictly budgetary. While I completely understand budgetary concerns, as I too have been hit heavily by a lack of funding throughout the state, I also understand the value of Music Education and am well aware of research and studies out there describing just that. I am also aware of the several positive additions my husband has made to the music program in his school.
Prior to my husband joining the district, the elementary music program was nothing short of dismal. When we entered the classroom the instruments were dusty, as if collecting it for several years, some were even broken. The piano was so severely out of tune it was more than just painful to anyone’s ears. There were no xylophones or drums. The students performed in one concert each year, in the Spring. We found several videos, a working TV and a snazzy working stereo.
The room was large and you could see my husbands wheels grinding… Dances, Drum Circles, ACTIVE music making. He had a plan and he put it into action.
Within two years, my husband will have performed 5 concerts, in addition to a day at the local nursing home singing for the residents, implemented a recorder program, found and utilized alternative funding sources to provide instruments (a Bass Xylophone and hopefully two new alto/soprano xylophones), introduced the students to several new and fun rhythmic making experiences and has actively taught the children music. He has even had the piano tuned (unfortunately that may be a lost cause, as three months later it is already wacky). He has also picked up several private students as a result of being a good classroom teacher. The kids WANT to learn from him. He gets along well with the administration, the teachers adore him, and the parents sometimes swoon! (I dont blame them, he’s gorgeous!) 😉
The videos are still collecting dust and who knows if the TV works anymore.
My husband values a good education and is an advocate for the importance of a musical foundation. If my husband leaves this district, all that he has worked so hard to implement will disappear by no fault of the music teachers that remain. The teachers who will be covering for the loss of Michael will be stretched so thin that the Elementary Music Program at his school will be lost. They will be covering not only the placement they are in now, but the size 13 footsteps that Michael left behind. While the “music program” will still be there, it will be very quiet and very small. It may only include one concert a year again. There will be no Orff dances and ensemble arrangements on the new xylophones. The piano may never be tuned again.
But, its the students who will suffer the most. There will be no jumping around the classroom to the rhythm of the Djembe, or performing Bach on the recorder.
These are things that cost money. These are the things that just don’t make sense. Tenure or not, Michael is a fantastic teacher! Budget or not, Students are making amazing progress as a result of the ACTIVE MUSIC MAKING that is happening in that classroom and beyond.
A Quality Music program can help to:
Improve Test Scores
Improve Self- Esteem
Improve School attendance
Where exactly is the negative in providing a QUALITY music education program?
Michael is just one of the many talented Music teachers who are losing their jobs. So let’s not just advocate for Michael, advocate for all music programs, advocate for our children who will suffer from a lack of arts programs available to them.
Here is some information on advocating for music in our schools:
National Association of Music Merchants: Support Music (please take special notice of the Community Action Kit on the left)
Here is some information on Arts Education Advocacy:
BTW, did you know that, “The term ‘core academic subjects’ means English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography.”
– No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, Title IX, Part A, Sec. 9101 (11) (retrieved from MENC.ORG)