After a two year hiatus, the Framingham Public Schools elementary band made a return appearance to the town's annual tree lighting & holiday concert Friday night.
The Framingham Public Schools' The school district eliminated the in-house program when it cut two band directors and a string instructor to save $116,351.
Before the program was cut 600-700 elementary school students participated in the elementary band program.
Parents had to pay for the lessons and the number of fourth and fifth graders taking instrumental lessons dropped dramatically. About 250-300 students participated in the paid program the first year.
The following year, the lessons were again held afterschool, but the numbers continued to drop.
The move was made to try to increase the number of students participating. There were some who felt the the participation level was low as the after-school instrumental music lessons competed with other after-school activities including sports and dance.
But even with the change the numbers keep dropping.
"We have fewer kids, but believe it is due to the economy and the cost of the lessons," said Performing Arts Center of MetroWest (PAC) Executive Director Mary Opanasets.
There are about 160 students taking instrumental music lessons, said Opanasets.
Last year, there were 210. "That is a big drop," she added.
Despite the decrease in numbers, for the first time since 2010, the fifth grade elementary band returned to the town's annual tree lighting & holiday concert to perform.
In previous years, the fourth & fifth grade students performed, but this year, just the second-year instrumental students in fifth grade were invited, said Opanasets.
The all elementary-school special rehearsals were held at PAC under the direction of Fuller Middle School instrumental music teacher Andrew Jasinski and retired Fuller Middle School music teacher Bob Mangan, said Opanasets. Mangan taught music for more than 30 years.
The string students did not perform in the holiday concert Friday night. Opanasets said it was too difficult to organize eight elementray schools brass, woodwind and strings into one group, so the string students will have a performance in 2013.
Students, who participate in the before-school program, pay $325 for 32 lessons during the school year, in addition to the cost of renting the instrument.
All of the town's elementary schools, have students participating in the program; but Wilson Elementary has the fewest students at just four, said Opanasets.
She said this year Bose Corporation in Framingham provided money for scholarships, which were used to pay for lessons for students who couldn't afford them.
Opanasets said PAC also loaned out 7-10 instruments to students who couldn't afford the rentals; and that several of the elementary schools also loaned out instruments to students who couldn't afford the monthly rental cost.
Earlier this year a group of parents and students spoke at a Framingham School Committee meeting asking for the eventual return of the free elementary instrumental music program.