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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.

Susan Petroni 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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