Don’t take music from our schools

A reader and retired music specialist explains the value of music in schools

Dear Sir:

As a recently-retired music specialist, I look back in awe at the quality of music instruction in this school district.

That quality is driven by the dedication and expertise of qualified music specialists.  Terrace school music programs are among the best in B.C. That’s why Terrace has a community band, a symphony orchestra, the Pacific Northwest Music Festival, stellar high school musicals and a great concert series.

Our town’s school music programs have produced many professional musicians, including a Juno nominee. Musical excellence is an integral part of Terrace’s identity.

In 1998, Terrace’s school music programs were on the chopping block, and hundreds of people in our community fought hard to save them, but the school board cut elementary band, kindergarten and grade 6 classroom music from the curriculum.

The Dare to Dream Foundation filled in the gap and eventually the school district reinstated elementary band.

Terrace’s school music programs are on the chopping block again. Suwilaawks quietly axed its music program a year ago, replacing it with a general fine arts program taught by a non-specialist teacher.  This year, for the first time in 47 years, Suwilaawks had no participation in the Pacific Northwest Music Festival. Now classroom music programs at Cassie Hall and Ecole Mountain View are also about to be eliminated, initiating little or no consultation with parents or teaching staff.  These are programs that feed into elementary and high school band, community band and orchestra. Eliminating these programs would be cutting off the band program at the ankles. Eventually, we’d be saying goodbye to elementary and secondary band. There is a huge body of research that unequivocally demonstrates that good music programs taught by music specialists lead to significant and outstanding educational outcomes – our kids are smarter, learn more, and are happier. Children who attend regular music classes score higher in math and reading skills. Music education improves memory and helps with social skills,  builds confidence and patience. It is how we often worship and is integral to our spiritual lives. And beyond that, playing music is just plain fun. It ignites a light in us that’s often hard to access at school in other ways.

Music for all children is a cause worth fighting for. Rather than gnawing away at the excellent musical tradition in our schools and community, the school district should be actively supporting it, and expanding it as a cost-effective way to get to better educational outcomes.

Replacing music programs taught by highly trained music specialists, with programs taught by non-specialists, can only lead to one outcome:  students with fewer skills in an increasingly complex and scary world. Parents are the key to retaining classroom music and band programs. They are in a much stronger position than teachers to influence decisions made by principals and district administration. And the parents of children in schools at risk need to make their voices heard loudly and clearly.  This is not a subtle shift in school board policy, it is a very significant degradation of one Terrace’s proudest traditions – a strong and vibrant musical education program.

Anne Hill,

Terrace, B.C.

 

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