Don't Allow Middle School To Silence Music Program

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Over the past four years I have watched the band and chorus at Rim Country Middle School grow not only in the number of students participating about 160 but more importantly in the quality of both of these performing groups. They have performed at many community and school events each performance better than the last.

The teachers involved have gained the respect of colleges statewide for their school's excellent performing abilities and their work with middle school musicians.

I have just learned that because of a quota of students required for each music class at Rim Country Middle School, these two groups have been silenced. The seventh- and eighth-grade band and chorus classes did not have the required 32-36 students signed up for each class. Consequently the classes were canceled. No seventh- or eighth-grade band or chorus class.

Middle school administrators, have you not read the research on how school music programs help kids? I can only speak from my own experience. In the past three years as a music educator, I have seen kids go from having very low self-esteem to starring in school plays and serving on student councils, from hanging with the wrong crowd to turning away from drug and alcohol abuse and turning on to music, from shy and introverted kids trying to adjust to a new school and environment to being accepted by a great crowd while they sing or play their instrument. The impact of participating in a school band or chorus is a life-changing experience.

I am in music education not only because of my passionate love for music as an art form, creative outlet and way to express myself, I am in music education because of the impact I can have on the lives of the children I sing, dance, play instruments and create with on a daily basis.

I know their lives are better. It is not about a minimum number. It is not about a fair schedule. it is not about selfishly guarding my subject time or my prep time. It is about kids.

Last year I held up RCMS as an example of excellence in my band class. This year I will start each of my band classes with a minute of silence for the music that is not being made. Each of us needs to speak out. There is a solution. Find it before it is too late.

D.L. Mason, ASRSA Gila County Teacher of the Year 2000

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