Long time no chat! Somehow my annual pilgrimage to one of your meetings to beg, plead and grovel for funding for music and fine arts programs never materialized this year. This is good.
I do want to share a little story with you, one that I hope you will read, and remember, when the inevitable discussions around music programs occur — now or in the future. Maybe it will be funding issues, whether to cut or (hopefully) expand music programs and/or staffing. Perhaps whether or not to approve a band or orchestra field trip.
Someday, if not this academic year than certainly in some other, these discussions and crucial votes will make it onto your agenda. When they do, please consider this:
Questions always seem to arise about the value of a music education. Honestly, I’ve never really understood how anyone could question the value of a music education, but the reality is many do. Including many school administrators, staff, teachers, coaches and district administrators.
My daughter is currently a Senior at Highland High School. She has been involved in Gilbert schools music programs since the seventh grade — literally half of her elementary and secondary education career.
She was recently accepted into ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, as well as ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College. I don’t believe I have to tell you how selective these programs are. While the Cronkite School considers primarily grades and test scores, Barrett also looks at the “whole package” of what a potential student can offer. They seek dedicated, hard working, driven students who can work well in groups and will work diligently to achieve the very high standards they set.
At a recent “scholars dinner” at ASU, I was privileged to meet with various administrators and professors from both the Cronkite School and Barrett. Naturally, discussions about my daughter entered into the conversation. We told some of the ASU representatives that we had waited with baited breath for months for word on our daughter’s acceptance into the Honors College. The day the Barrett acceptance arrived, the entire Thompson family was excited, and relieved. The opportunity for our daughter to get a world-class Journalism education, to enroll in the Honors College simultaneous Bachelor’s and Master’s degree program, is very much appreciated. She will work hard, and she will do well.
We told the ASU staff that we were concerned that our daughter’s extracurricular and community activities would hurt her chances of being admitted to Barrett. You see, she had dedicated a tremendous amount of time and effort into the music program at Highland. Being in Marching Band, Symphony, Wind Ensemble and Concert Band leaves no time for anything else. A-hour’s, after-school practices, concert performances, competitions, on-field performances — there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do much else.
You know what we heard, repeatedly, from the people at Cronkite and Barrett?
“We love band kids. They work hard, and they are unbelievably dedicated. They work well with others. They are respectful. They are bright. They are well-balanced. Some of our most successful students come out of high school music programs.”
These accolades for students in music programs were repeated over and over. These accolades came straight from the mouths of ASU staff and faculty — people that work with university students every day and know what it takes for them to not just be successful, but to excel.
“We love band kids.”
“Some of our most successful students come out of high school music programs.”
Those are powerful sentiments from people that see success, and failure, on a daily basis at the post-secondary education level.
So please, remember those words and sentiments the next time discussions come up about cutting classes, programs, funding or assistance for music and the performing arts. Remember the incredible dedication and effort that Mr. Chip Durham (Highland Junior High Music Director), Mr. Kevin Bennett, Mr. Lewis Nelson and Mr. Bill Bitter (Highland High Band faculty) put forth every single day to give our children an amazing education and even more amazing future.
“We love band kids.”
And you should too. Many of the best and brightest in the Gilbert Independent School District are band (and orchestra, and choir) students. They are ambassadors for all the Gilbert schools, and our community. They will be leaders, teachers, doctors, journalists, scientists, business owners and parents.
They are our future.
Please, don’t ever forget the importance of music and the performing arts in education, or those that provide it.
Photo Credit: “Scattered Notes” by S. Parker on Flickr. CC Licensed.