January 15, 2018
On Saturday, January 13 I attended the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District Band 2 Festival in Warren Area High School’s newly renovated auditorium. One hundred sixty extremely accomplished music students performed a variety of pieces under the baton of Dr. R. Tad Greig, Director and Professor of Music at Westminster College. Coincidentally, Dr. Grieg started his career teaching music at Sheffield High School in 1984.
The concert rivaled those performed by major metropolitan symphonies. Having auditioned for the honor of participation and then practicing with strangers, the students demonstrated what capable and talented musicians they have become since picking up their instruments in elementary or middle school.
How ironic it is that the same school district that hosted this prestigious gathering of fine musicians announced just days ago that elementary and middle level curriculum change will remove music in third grade, art in fourth grade, and library in fifth grade. Computer courses will replace those subjects. At the middle level, a decrease in art, music, library and consumer science will take place in order to increase computer time, physical education, health, research, study skills, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). It is even more ironic to consider the research and best practices that affirm the connection between music, art, and academic excellence in science, engineering, and math.
A concern is that by removing third grade music the chipping away at the foundation of basic music skills will impact the acquisition of higher level music skills in fourth grade when students begin to learn a musical instrument. Losing one year of instruction and not having sequential music instruction will affect building musical skills and will erode the middle level band program as students will lose interest. If we lose third grade music, what is to stop taking away first and second grade music instruction? Will this set a precedent?
Without a sequential music program in the elementary years, the middle level and high school music curriculum will be impacted, whereby, there will no longer be marching band, orchestra, jazz band, choir, and madrigals. The fine example of a regional music festival will no longer have Warren County School District participation, let alone hosting of such an event. It is tragic to think that WCSD would be the first in the region to decimate a long standing music curriculum and deny its students an art and music program simply to save money.
As was demonstrated by the fine musicians who performed at Saturday’s concert, music instruction promotes interpersonal relationships and fosters an appreciation of humanity, as well as promoting academic excellence in the form of STEM skills. This is a win/win for the individual students, an excellent music program, and society as a whole.
Think of the long range economic implications of removing music, art, and library from elementary school. People with school age children who value a well-rounded education for their children will not move to Warren County. It seems like another cost saving initiative that makes us look like a third world country.
I implore the WCSD to re-evaluate the decision to remove music from third grade, art from fourth grade, and library from fifth grade.
Barbara T. Scott,
Retired teacher and taxpayer