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Vince Bates

Why is it so important for students to learn to play band instruments in middle or elementary school when 99% will have quit playing soon after graduating from high school if not before? Where is the lifelong musical benefit? Increasing irrelevance might be an underlying problem here. I taught band for 14 years and was successful at building and maintaining a strong band program in a small, rural school district. Still, I wonder about the fact that the only student who still plays his band instrument is now the band director. What, really, was the point of teaching so many students to play. You can quote studies about academic performance, discipline, and team building, but these things can all be accomplished without band. Just some thoughts . . .

Bev Bullis

Dear Suzanne,
I had to write to offer you my support. After reading your letter this looks so much like the approach several other districts have taken. It's nonsense and there is Federal support against this.
Among the arguments:
1. Afterschool programs are not available to ALL students (due to bus schedules, parent schedules)
2. Beforeschool programs are not available to ALL students (same reason)
3. Logistically, students who must be "dropped" off are unsupervised
until the teacher arrives.
4. Logistically, students whose parents are not on time to pick them up, puts the music teacher in a position where they must stay and wait with the child, many times for quite a long time.
5. There must also be time allotted during the school day for students to receive music instruction...whether it is taught by the classroom teacher (yikes!) or by an accredited music specialist.

One of the dangers is the wording about who is authorized to teach any subject, including music. A classroom teacher cannot teach a subject for which she/he has not been accredited. Unfortunately, the state of California has wording to the effect that it can be determined by a school principal whether a music teacher is qualified. How many principals have the expertise to make this judgment?

If you want more reasons why an after school, before school program is not equitable for all students, let me know and I'll have my music chapter board send in their remarks and then forward them to you! We all have to stick together..and we WILL!

Bev Bullis, Co-President, Orange County Music Chapter

Leonard Ostwalt

We too are going through the same issue with our school district. (Moving elementary band to an after school progrm. Administrators were also very careful to say they were not "cutting" the program but creating more opportunity for kids while not needing to miss another class.) We did much the same as you suggested and for now it appears that next year the band and orchestra will still be taught during the school day. We have formed a "study" panel to study the delivery of instruction time to students in our grade 5 and 6 building. This means that we are not out of the woods on this issue as of yet and still have much advocacy left to do for the program. Our basic issue is classroom teachers needing blocks of uninterrupted instructional time to attempt to raise test scores.

Thanks for getting this word out to people. I think you will see more of this happening as the pressure to raise test scores increases.

Leonard Ostwalt
Forest Grove High School

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