“Music is an essential part of everything we do. Like puppetry, music has an abstract quality which speaks to a worldwide audience in a wonderful way that nourishes the soul.”
- Jim Henson – television producer and puppeteer
Why is that when school districts face financial crisis the first programs they look to cut are music and art education?
This week the Alton School District is planning on discussing the changes it will make to its curriculum in order to save money due to its increasing deficit. Some of those changes could include slashing programs in music and art.
I want to remind the elected school board officials that the U.S. Department of Education lists the arts as subjects that college-bound middle and junior high school students should take. The federal department states that “many colleges view participation in the arts and music as a valuable experience that broadens students’ understanding and appreciation of the world around them.”
Art programs are vital to producing well-rounded children. Kids need a break from the usual math or English class in school. They sit and listen for a majority of the day and a music or art class gives them something tangible to get their hands on and create something.
I believe it’s critically important for them to have the opportunity to broaden their minds and experience through participating in such programs. There are many qualities that are honed through music education, including discipline, team work, communication, perseverance, self-mastery, and courage.
These are the skills from which my son has benefited greatly and will continue to do so for the rest of his life.
I moved to Alton when my son was 7 years old. By the time he turned 9 he was in the Alton schools music program at Lovejoy Elementary. The first instrument he played was the viola.
In the fifth grade he changed instruments. He started playing the French horn, because he learned from his music teacher — Kenny King — that is what his mother played when she was in grade school. Mr. King has the ability to recall what all his classmates (I was one) played at Jerseyville’s West Elementary School.
By the time Cole was in sixth grade he switched to the trombone. Why? Well it’s the instrument his teacher played and he thought it would be more fun. To this day Cole still plays the trombone at Alton High School. He also plays several other instruments depending on what section he is performing with.
For Marching 100 he has played the baritone and euphonium. He plays the electric bass for pep band; trombone, the electric bass and stand-up bass for jazz band; and the trombone and stand-up bass for symphonic band. He went to the all-district jazz festival at McKendree College this past year and played the electric bass and stand-up bass.
Besides the instruments Cole plays at school, he also plays the guitar and keyboards. Music envelops every part of his life and I couldn’t be more grateful to the teachers who have encouraged him along the way.
As a child of divorced parents Cole has found comfort in music. It’s been the one constant in his life no matter what else happens. The thing I’ve noticed most is that Cole’s grades prior to music were “so so.” Since he picked up an instrument his grades have soared. I also know that playing is something he will continue to do for the rest of his life.
He has ambitions of going to college and studying music and possibly getting on the production end of it, but no matter what his choices his age will never limit his ability to keep playing. I mean look around and you will find 80 year olds who can still “swing a mean horn.”