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Parents Want Free, Accessible Elementary Instrumental Music Program

A group of parents are expected to attend tonight's School Committee meeting to advocate for changes to the elementary instrumental music program.

Unhappy with the current elementary school instrumental music program, parents are expected to bring their concerns to the School Committee at its meeting tonight at 7:30.

"The overall objective is to have music reinstated into the school day - free and equally accessible for all 4th and 5th graders," said parent Cheryl Elkins in an email to parents.

"There has been much discussion within the (school) district over the past few months of how to "reinvigorate" the elementary band instruction program. All agree having band instruction be offered in school, at all elementary schools. is the objective," wrote Elkins.

Elkins is a parent of three children - a high school junior who plays flute/piccolo, a middle school student, who plays percussion and a second grader, who plays trombone.

"This allows for many things, most importantly, equal access to the program for all students in the district," wrote Elkins, who has been organizing parents to advocate for the return of the former elementary instrumental music program.

through the and pay for the classes.

The numbers of students taking instruments in the last two years has declined. Some elementary schools, in the first year of the afterschool pay-for-lessons program, did not have enough students to hold its own concert. F while students at Dunning, Stapleton, Hemenway and

But even the schools that had enough students paying to learn an instrumental in the first year are struggling in the second year. A good percentage of those who paid for lessons as fourth graders at chose not to take lessons as fifth graders.

And both the and are worried about the numbers of students with instrumental experience coming to their programs, especially with fewer students opting to try anf or stick with a musical instrument.

Elkins, in her email to parents, said it was her understanding that next school year, there is a proposal by the school district's band directors to have the Performing Arts Center of MetroWest offer instrumental music lessons before school, as opposed to afterschool.

The proposed change would allow the district band directors input in the elementary instrumental program, which will help ensure staffing is aligned with the district expectations.

The change would also make make it easier for parents to have their children participate, as they will drop them off on their way to work and the children move directly into the school day; and it alleviates conflict with other afternoon extracurricular activities and mid-day transportation issues.

Richelle Harrod, a McCarthy Elementary mom, is one of the parents who plan to attend the meeting and address the School Committee. She said several McCarthy parents are unhappy with the current instrumental music program offered.

"This is an interim, stepping-stone measure," wrote Elkins to parents. "The goal is still to reinstate instruction into the school day as soon as feasible."

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Editor's note: My daughter is a fifth grade student at McCarthy elementary. She is in her second year of instrumental music lessons via the Performing Arts Center of MetroWest.

Diane Tiger April 04, 2012 at 10:46 AM
Please contact the school committee in support of the return of this program. The email for the Administrative Assistant is: agreenbe@framingham.k12.ma.us
Herb Chasan April 04, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Emails are fine, but in addition, you should show up in order to make your case. Please be at the King Building on Water St. at 7:30 PM to speak directly to the School Committee. A short speech less than 5 minutes. In addition, letters to the Patch are great also. The more things that you can do, the better. Go For it. Herb Chasan
Susan Petroni (Editor) April 04, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Yes, feel free to send letters to Patch at susan.petroni@patch.com. Please include your name and a phone number/email for verification purposes only.
Cheryl Elkins April 04, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Here's some additional info for those planning to send letters or speak at the meeting this evening. It's very important that the in-school instruction period not interfere with academics or the school day continuity. Thus, the recommendation is that in-school instruction be scheduled during "specials" (ideally during the same block as general music).. It is expected that the district will need time to re-introduce the program into all the elementary schools. So, in the interim, access to the current program could be improved by moving to before school while appropriate planning can occur. If it were possible to pilot the in-school instruction at one or two elementary schools this coming year to work out the kinks, that would be an ideal compromise for the FY2012-2013 school year.
Elsa Hornfischer April 04, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Because I won't be able to attend the school committee tonight, kindly pass this message on. As a former nurse who worked with special needs children; as a longtime supporter of Berklee College of Music; as a longtime arts supporter in Framingham; and as a mother and grandmother who has seen first hand the power that the arts have had in enriching the lives of my children and grandchildren; I strongly support the efforts of Cheryl Elkins and other parents who wish to see music (and I'll add the arts in general as well as participation in sports,) as a necessary and vital resource for all children at no cost, period! There just have to be ways to energize this community around this issue! Framingham is blessed with a whole new generation of young, active, and inspired families. These families are here to replace my generation, and I am confident that they hold the power to change things - after all, most of us have the most "political" impact in the communities in which we live. (Many in my generation will support your efforts but may not be able to do the "heavy lifting!") I urge Framingham's school committee, with Cherl and her allies as partners, to brainstorm together and then charge forward with your plan. The children will thank you. Elsa Hornfischer
Diane Tiger April 04, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Does anyone know if there has been any work toward securing grants to help support music in the schools? (Although a quick search of major grants for arts programs seemed to show that it is often a requirement that the grant support an existing program.) @ Cheryl - is there any parent organization behind this? If so, how can people connect? Also, while I understand it is intended as a stop-gap measure, aren't there studies that showed that before school programs also have high drop-out rates because school start times are often already very early? How would this work for McCarthy with an 8:15 start time? However, I really like your proposal to have instrumental music take place at the same time as general music!
Elsa Aviza April 04, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Think Positive. It is in the air. Just check out our recent election results. Framingham is a great place and we all want increased revenue to assist in lowering our taxes but not on the backs of our greatest resource, our children. People only stay or move in based on the quality of our schools. Less complaining and more thoughtful input is the wave about to take over Framingham and it is about time. Lets brainstorm not brow beat!
FHS Mom April 04, 2012 at 05:50 PM
This is one area where I've always wondered when it comes to cutting costs but still providing the service for those who wish to use it, why is it "mandatory" for each student to either participate in band or choir? This has always been something that neither of my 3 children have never wanted to do, but have been forced to do. In addition, the parent is forced to pay for the rental or purchase of the intsrument for something that their child has little to no interest in. Making this an optional program for those students interested in it would result in lower costs/more availability for those who want it wouldn't it?
Cheryl Elkins April 04, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Jim You ask pertinent questions. Parents are not asking the district to increase the budget, they are asking the district to commit to providing equal and ideally free access at the elementary school level. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways and there are creative ways to do this. First step is the recognition of and commitment to the program by the district - that is the request. Currently, all students participating in the after school program at the elementary leve are paying for their weekly lessons (they must commit to a year), plus the rental/purchase of their instrument. I believe none of this money comes back to the district. The middle school and high school programs are offered in school as classes; these children have to have their own instruments in most cases. For the record -- the high school instrumental music program is a year long course offered at the high school and, as such, no equivalent of the "athletic fee" can be required. Their budget is a gesture at best in my opinion. The fact that this program exists and is slowly growing is owed to the tireless efforts of its director, his students, and their parents. They raise the majority of funds needed to sustain this program at its current level.These children bring honor and visibility to Framingham and are role models for their peers across the grades- intangibles that are often forgotten in these discussions. If you'd like more dialogue, feel free to email me (methyglyn@gmail.com).
Jim Rizoli April 04, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Elsa...I'm not complaining just asking questions. To think this has to go on the "backs" of the children is disingenuous. Economics is not complicated...you either have the money or you don't. If you don't have the money then you go without, sorry to say. But for the record....there have been no answers to my questions. I usually take one step at a time then go from there. If there is no "first step" (my questions being answered) then where is... there. Chery...nice of you to allow the email invite. FHS Mom....good point about making it optional. Jim@ccfiile.com
Cheryl Elkins April 04, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Jim - I believe I did answer some of your questions. 1. all elementary school children participating in the after school program are paying fees 2. none of this money is returning to the district at this time 3. middle school and high school students do not pay a fee as this is part of in-school instruction
Jim Rizoli April 04, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Cheryl...Thank you....can you be more specific...actual monetary cost. Jim@ccfiile.com
Elsa Aviza April 04, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Jim I think it is good to ask questions and have opinions, however the grim "you tube" music takes it to an unnecessary level. If you want to be taken seriously then stick to the questions. That's all I am saying with all due respect. And yes you deserve answers to your questions.
Joe Rizoli April 04, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Would kids who are getting free lunch and free busing have to pay for the musci then? If they can't afford the "free" above mentioned, how would they be able to afford the FEE for the music program? Are these kids NOT allowed then to be able to be part of this "FEE" based music program? Please answer this for me. You just stated ALL pay the fee. I would assume then that those kids mentioned above are NOT paticipating in the "fee" based music program. Joe Rizoli
Susan Petroni (Editor) April 04, 2012 at 08:56 PM
There was some scholarship money available for those who could not afford the fees; but NO, every students on free or reduced lunch was not allowed to take the lessons for free as the program was run by an organization and not part of the school district. It is different than how the school-district run athletic and busing fees operate. *** This year and last year, PAC said there about 200 students across all 8 elementary school students participating in the fee-based instrumental after-school lesson program. This year, based on state education numbers there are 650 4th graders and 645 fifth grade students.
Kathleen M. Howland April 04, 2012 at 09:58 PM
As a music researcher, therapist and educator, I wish to offer my strong support that music be reinstated. Current research in neuroscience informs us as to the importance of music across the lifeline. Fetuses are able to hear and recall songs heard in the last trimester in the womb. Songs have been used for millennia to comfort and soothe babies which supported their survival. Today, babies in the NICU who have music leave an average of 5 days earlier than those who do not. Music training appears to develop the neural circuitry for attention that allows all children to learn any subject better. People who grow old with music (as an avocation), age well (e.g. less acute care hospitalizations, less incidence of depression) saving the health care system untold dollars. Music, like reading, is a gift for life. People who are related to music can create joy and comfort throughout their life. I have never met a person who said "I am so glad my mother didn't make me play an instrument." Most adults regret not exploring their abilities to play music. Everyone has the ability to be self-expressed in this important medium and thus deserves a proper education.
Diane Tiger April 04, 2012 at 10:03 PM
@ Kathleen - I wish Patch had a "like" button!
Bill Sell April 04, 2012 at 11:48 PM
The debate needs to be focused here. The request is to restore a program that worked for many years in our school system and is a vital feeder for middle and high school programs: two part-time band teachers who each cover four elementary schools with a once-a-week before school in the morning band program, and each run an ongoing band within each of our eight elementary schools. Since the two positions were cut FPS hasn't allowed a real discussion about how to restore an in-school, District and FPS-run program. The Performing Arts Center program mentioned is an outsourced version of what is needed. PAC is good at a lot of things, but running eight school-based bands for 4th and 5th graders is something very different than PAC's mission and skill set. This program needs two part-time BAND instructors, each assigned four schools, each working four mornings and some after school time. Allow these part timers to conduct FOR FEE in school (on the backs of the parents who wish to have this) additional lesson times. There are a band-qualified BAND instructors out of work. I capitalize BAND because this isn't just any music instructor - we need a person used to teaching a larger group of school-age students in a wide variety of instruments. Not a trumpet skilled performer who likes to give private trumpet lessons and now is going to "teach band" to a group of students. This solution has been proposed but ignored by FPS. Time to have an open and frank discussion. Hopefully...
Joe Rizoli April 07, 2012 at 10:41 PM
I totally agree with the comments here about music across the lifeline. But music doesn't grow on trees. Once it was reading, writing and arithmetic, now it's way beyond that. Joe Rizoli

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