Music is the First Thing to Get Cut

I received the following forwarded message, from my high school band director. As soon as I read it, it worried me:

This Thursday, the school board members will be seeking input and discussing a list of proposed budget cuts. On the list of proposed cuts for next year is all elementary music and 6th to 8th grade band.

If the cuts are approved the only band in the school district will be the high school band which will last only a couple of years as it dies away with the lack of lower grade participation. Please come to this meeting and voice your support for the music programs.

Please make every effort to attend. If you cannot, feel free to email or call any of the school board members.

We need to let the board know that the community feels music is an essential part of a child’s education and nothing less. I know we can muster support from board members, but they need to see that the community believes music is a priority.

I sent each of the board members an e-mail praising them for their judgment. The letter, of course, assumes that they don’t drop elementary and middle school band. I didn’t just say that carte blanche, though. I promised to send them a nasty e-mail if they did drop music.

To think I had thought my school district immune to this sort of short-sightedness. Alas, no more.

It’s a nasty word, but why don’t a few administrative types volunteer a temporary pay cut? It worked for Steve Jobs.

Something makes me think that ain’t gonna fly.

Moral of the story? In such situations, defer to Mel Brooks. “Hope for the best, expect the worst.”

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  1. Lindsey

    Where I went to high school a few years back we had a thriving music program, and still do. Several different choirs, which I was a member of, and several bands, who have been highly regarded in the state. Several of the choir people like me went to a FMCMEA honor choir group – it takes the best singers from each school in the district and puts them together to make music that is a lot harder than the normal stuff most schools see. Anyway, the director was a lady from a neighboring school district which has a pretty poor reputation – lots of drug use, violence, parents who don’t care about their kids’ success, etc. Their music program is currently in the pits. She told us that she went to THAT district, and their music program used to be like ours before budget cuts. It made me sad to think that that is what my school district may look like in twenty years. I’m very proud of what we accomplished and I hope it can continue, but no doubt it will be left and forgotten while the “rich” people move on to other districts and they start “accommodating” their kids.

  2. The success of music programs is directly related to the success of their feeder programs. Cut off the feeder programs, and you’ll never keep that championship band.

  3. JT

    Not to denigrate the importance of other school subjects, but music is the one that has stuck with me long after graduation. I can’t remember the last time I calculated the circumference of a right-angled trapezoid (yes, I know those don’t go together…I’m making a point). Yet, I listen to music every day, and sing along (rather poorly) with my favorite songs on the radio, and even try to pluck out a few on my guitar. When music is cut, the love for that part of our culture is diminished. Math, science, and even English are very important, and of course must be kept (though I’m not sure how dissecting that frog in 10th grade really helped me all these years later), but music must be included in with those subjects as well as a keeper.

  4. Music is an integral part of any serious education. It also happens to be my favorite part of any serious education, but that’s neither here nor there.

  5. Katie

    I think that it is ridiculous that music is always the first program to be cut. I believe it to be the most important and beneficial to schools. I’ve been in band since 4th grade and I’m now a senior in High School, and it is so sad to see music programs dying…

  6. They’re always dying. There are always some coming back to life, too. There are always some flourishing. It’s a vicious cycle.

  7. JAFY

    music is often the second thing to go right after they axe visual arts; that is assuming a school ever had it in the first place most of the schools in our state don’t. Oddly enough some schools which offer no visual arts special offer two or three music specials per grade level…I guess it just depends on where you live

  8. We never had a visual arts program at my high school, I don’t think.

    We do have photography, but only at the high school level. It’s safe for now.

  9. Silly People

    Music doesn’t need to be cut completely. Having a chorus for the poor students and band for those able to afford instruments is good. If you have to cut something, cut orchestra. Bands typically play at graduation and football games. Choir is the least expensive of the programs and the choir director typically has the best knowledge of general music (for the students not in ensembles). Those few students actually set on playing a string instrument can find their means through Suzuki method teachers or regular private teachers.

    It is similar for other places. You need to simply take a little bit out of various areas rather than narrowing your view to one particular area. Do we need music? Yes. Do we need Choir, Band AND Orchestra? Not at all.

    • Alhambra High School Tri - M Music Honor Society Chapter 3611

      Are you serious?
      all forms of music is important, if we let them cut one, eventually they would cut the others. Are you in a performing arts group? I think not. If you’re a musician at all you would know that we need Choir, Band, AND Orchestra. Even if one is cheaper than one another, it doesnt matter! banging rocks together was cheaper than playing a piano, yet Mozart composed wonderful music with a piano.
      Why would we deprive students of playing violin, cello, viola, etc… simply because [to you] its worthless out of the other music groups and is the most expensive. Most students can’t afford private music lessons as well.
      I’m now the President of the Tri – M Music Honor Society Chapter 3611 and I work hard, along with the music teachers, to protect and advocate the music program here.
      so don’t say we dont really need an Orchestra! We need the entire music program and the school districts are jerks for always wanting to cut it!

  10. wow

    I’m shocked that someone would suggest that orchestra is less important than the other forms of art. Tell Yo-Yo Ma that you want to cut string programs, and let me know how that goes. You shouldn’t have bands and choir solely for public exhibition. It should be for the students learning and development, and string education can provide many things to a student that other forms of education can not. String education provides so many outlets for learning. There are so many styles and different cultures one can learn about by playing a string instrument.
    It is ignorant of you to say that choir directors know more about general music, when all music educators are certified to teach any form of music to any grade. “Orchestra Conductors” learn the same things as the “choir directors” in a sense of general music.
    Also, the only reason that students aren’t “set” on playing string instruments is because they don’t get the exposure to them that they should be getting from a very young age….our public school’s failures.
    You’re also ignorant for saying that poor kids have to be in choir. Does this mean that rich kids can’t be in choir? That ‘Poor” kids can’t play an instruments? That is the most ridiculous, uneducated thing anyone could say about music education.

  11. John

    I am part of the Tri-M in Pierre South Dakota and we have been somewhat hit by this. The board has cut down our elementary program to less than half leaning towards non-existent. My middle school and high school directors are having to go cover the lost positions without any raise in wage and it makes me sick. if the grade school programs dwindle then every band up from that will be impacted. things kids should have learned in 4th grade, they are now learning in 7th grade and falling behind. this is a gross and dispicable display of the “American School Board” mentality.

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