Saturday, November 28, 2009

Save the Music

To all of the Americans, I hope you had a lovely Turkey Day with family and friends. To all of my other friends, I hope you had a lovely Thursday.Please know I'm definitely thankful for all of you.

As you may or may not know, I'm writing this to you as I sit in my childhood home, and it made me a bit nostalgic of my younger years that spurred this love for music deep with in my bones. So now is definitely a great time to go a bit of the usual beaten Melismatic track to talk about something that needs noting.

I grew up in a small-ish town in Upstate NewYork. My school system was and still sort of is relatively known within the state as a gifted music school. It was thanks to school that my journey truly took off -- I began playing the clarinet in the fourth grade, and took part in countless bands, orchestras, pep bands, pit orchestras, ensembles, you name it, I did it.

Our bands and orchestras would often compete in NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association) grading and music conferences on a biyearly basis. It was something I would regularly look forward to and anticipate during my middle school and high school years.

Imagine my chagrin a few months ago when I first heard my local school board was considering completely cutting the music program from my school to save money due to budget restraints. That nightmare has started to become a semi-reality, as lessons get scaled back, "honors" bands are completely docked, the chorus program saw major cuts, and Jazz Ensemble has become volunteer-oriented and practices are held after school.

It's hard to believe that so much can change in the nearly four and a half years since I've set foot in my old high school. The Principal has been replaced by my old Social Studies/Economics teacher. They are now offering graphic design classes in normal curriculum. Apparently, a mural has been made for my graduating class, as we were the first class to attend that school for four years and graduate post 9/11.

In the same vein, so much remains the same. The football team still idolizes our patron sport to an unhealthy level (I recall at one point during my sophomore year, our teachers ran out of white paper to copy assignments on, because the budget money went to getting "the team" new uniforms), the annual Pie Drive for the less fortunate continues to get bigger and bigger every year, and our school mascot (a Native American-based "warrior"complete with tomahawk) contiues to remain prominent and vaguely offensive.

Everyone feels at least a little bit of pull and pride toward their old school. So much of my life was shaped there, and so much of it was thanks to my time spent in music-based classes.It was more than learning how to read music, play notes, and perform as a unit. It was where I found my voice, my confidence, my personality, and my friends.

The mere fact that music departments are even considered "nonessential" to a child's learning development makes me want to cry. I honestly don't believe it's an different than an athletic sports team, or a foriegn language club. It fosters solidarity, teaches you responsibility, and hardwires your brain. And unlike the football team, it doesn't matter how tall or small you are, how physically strong you are -- all that matters is your commitment to the music.

Basically, what I'm saying is: if you have music in your life, cherish it. You don't know how precious and meaningful it is, until its taken away from you.

Click here to see how you can help via the Save the Music program.


Nikki said...


I suppose I am fortunate to have grown up in an environment that made whatever foray into music I wanted possible and it hurts to hear what's happening over there. I honestly don't know what I'd be doing now had I not learned how to read notes from my grandmother, how to play the piano from a family friend and professor, how to sing in a choir from my aunt or recording fundamentals and terminology from my dad.

John said...

Amen to that. This nation is quickly losing its priorities. A quality nation costs money and sacrifice.

Myfizzypop said...

great article - it's sad when music disappears from schools. In a way one would hope the success of Glee would help these programmes out but i doubt it, unless they do a huge charity single in benefit of it. I loved doing choir at school and playing in orchestra - i'd be sad if kids missed out on those great times :(

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