The 2012-2013 school year marks the beginning of the third year that elementary students in the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District have been without music or arts due to budget cuts.
While students and parents question this cut, the State of California has made it clear that music and art is only “suggested” curriculum in elementary schools.
As an alternative, some elementary schools within the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District are keeping the music alive by partnering with a local non-profit group, called the Young Artists Conservatory of Music, to offer students a program called Music Matters.
This is a tuition based program that is “designed to inspire and retain young musicians in ongoing musical education and performing arts throughout our community.”
The program offers students lessons in band, strings, chorus and guitar.
In the classroom of Dan Peckham, band teacher at Green Valley Middle School, musical notes are as important as words, math calculations and test scores. He said that the cuts have affected his program at the elementary school in more ways than one.
“Interestingly, my enrollment has increased instead of declined. With that though, the skill level of the students is lower coming into middle school. So, I'm dealing with a greater percentage of beginners with larger class sizes. We are moving slower to get to an expected proficiency at the age level of the students.”
At a recent visit, about one-third of the students raised their hands when asked if music cuts had affected them directly.
While partnering with programs such as the conservatory appears to be a reasonable alternative, there are some who oppose saying that even this option separates those who can pay from those who cannot afford to pay for lessons.
Wanda Cook, Artistic Director at the Conservatory, has addressed this by saying that they are currently “working to fund a district wide program through aggressive grant writing."
Still many say that music in the classroom is not necessary for students. There are valid arguments for both sides of the issue.
An article in ehow.com points out that there are a few possible downfalls of having music in schools. It states that loud music can be a distraction to other classrooms, that exclusively offering music conveys a bias to other programs such as film making or acting and that children with difficulty understanding music may receive poor grades which would adversely affect their grade point average.
On the flip side, there are several studies which identify music as a worthwhile endeavor for all schoolchildren.
In Rhode Island, a group of first-graders who were identified as underachievers, were given music and visual-arts training. In less than one
full school year, these students had not only caught up in reading but had also surpassed their peers in math. Additionally, teachers saw improvement in both attitude and behavior in these same students.
According to the Children’s Music Workshop, a private company which offers music programs to students in the Los Angeles area, “Experts
have proven that music education not only enhances a child's academic
performance in math and science, it also engenders teamwork, communication and other social skills that are critical to success as an adult.”
Now we place the question to the readers of Suisun Patch. How important is music education in the classroom. Is this something that students can do without? Why or why not?