My very excellent son played in the Denver Citywide Honor Band last weekend. He's in fifth grade, and so played with some of the best elementary school musicians from this city. He had a great time spending a Friday afternoon and seven hours of a Saturday immersed in music.
We stayed after his band's concert to hear the Citywide Middle School and High School bands concerts as well. It was inspiring to hear how much better the older bands are than the younger. It's obvious, but it's still inspiring.
I'm really glad my children are afforded the opportunity to play in school bands. In particular, I'm really glad that the school district has, so far, been willing to continue funding bands in schools. As I've noted before, I believe art (and physical education) is indispensable in public education.
But, since the economy has been recessed for a few years, and people seem to be less and less willing to pay taxes, school districts are being forced to cut their budgets and pare down to the bare bones … back to readin', 'ritin', and 'rithmetic.
I understand the dilemma ~ without enough money, do you cut the band program or the math department? Obviously, without enough money for both, the band is gone.
Colorado just received word that the state is exempted from the requirements of the so-called 'No Child Left Behind' strictures. This announcement encouraged me to look into the performance-evaluation system the state adopted that led to this exemption.
Some of the standards students should be able to demonstrate, based on the newer assessment criteria, are: creativity, innovation, communication, collaboration, initiative, and self-direction.
Colorado was granted this waiver, which allows the state more flexibility in using federal funds to assess improvement. What I really wish is that the state had more flexibility in using federal funds to actually develop these markers in students.
Here's the thing ~ I learned to play an instrument in 6th grade. I was never, and will never be, a great musician. This does not mean, though, that my musical education was wasted. I continue, to this day, to find joy in creating music, and I believe I'm a better person because of the intangibles I learned by playing in the school band.
Mr. Richard Shaw, the conductor of the Citywide High School band pointed out the truth to us that these qualities (creativity, innovation, communication, collaboration, initiative, self-direction) are all inherent to playing in a band.
I wish the state had the finances and flexibility to actually take arts (and physical) education seriously. I wish we were raise more tax dollars to fund arts education. I wish we would recognize that even though it's difficult to measure the benefit of music to children in the short term (like we can measure improvement in mathematics), our society will benefit in the long term from teaching all children music and art.