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We're in the trench of cultural warfare for sure! As a 20-plus years music teacher and former road musician I have seen the enemy and they are US! The bulk of administrators are now shameless in often stating that math, reading and science are the ONLY areas that matter to America! That's "educanese" code for: I've been given my marching orders and this is how I protect my backside! Spineless and brainless is more like it!

Those are the same folks who have no ideas that jazz and classical music venues are disappearing faster than TV guides in newspapers! America's own homegrown art form, jazz, is now taught, if at all, to only an elite 17 or 18 kids who fit into the "box" of a big band format! Great! That leaves out ALL of the other kids in a music department! Many of the "music educators" on the scene don't even get it. America can't build a taste for ANY kind of art when it becomes "exclusive"! I teach ALL of the kids in my band programs to play the blues and improvise as well as how to play classical music. And then? They, all 120, go into the black hole of middle school where only a handful will be "allowed" to play in the jazz band and then only if they play the "right instrument"...and we wonder why there are almost no jazz clubs or radio/TV channels for it? You can easily apply this scenario to many, many other genre
but this one hits close to home for me!

I grew up in a house filled with ALL kinds of art and ended up with a solid classical and jazz music education. I was lucky enough to tour with the US ARMY JAZZ AMBASSADORS, BUDDY RICH, MAYNARD FERGUSON and arrange and conduct for singer ETHEL ENNIS and the BALTIMORE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA and now, it seems that ALL of that music is going the way of the dinosaurs.

My elementary students LOVE to play Ellington's "C Jam Blues" and they ALL can improvise! AND THEN WE LOSE THEM TO MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL ELITES! The festival system and "wanting those trophies" has driven a lot of this. So has the ever lowering bar of broad music education at most so-called schools of music. Those institutions have lost, if they ever had it, their real world view on the music business.
To be effective and have meaning, any learned skill must have real world applicability. Heck, most schools of music shove the jazzers into a closet for rehearsal space! And the bulk of those teaching it couldn't swing if they were hanging!!!

Pro musicians who are successful must also take part of the wrap for this situation. When a studio player or touring soloist is a success, they tend to start viewing the world of music through THEIR glasses. Well, most of the music education scene is NOT that rosey! We don't even have the space to put in the garden!

We need to get real folks and start sharing the real stories from the trenches to get a clear picture of the battle field...the big picture as told through thousands of detailed local scenes. Polls are a "nice idea"...except when they: (1) don't ask the right questions (maybe because they won't receive the "right" answers!) and (2) don't ask enough people to get the whole picture.

Where the rubber meets the musical road in my area of the country, which is supposed to be a model for "fine" education, the administrative decisions being made are killing music education and will bury it in the next couple of years unless many more of us stand up to educate parents and defend the arts. It's as important to our "hearts" as health care. When people have a purpose and "feel" life, they're more likely to live it better.
Whether they know it or not, everyone needs art!

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