I’m writing in response to your article about the marching band consolidation. My dad, Mark Napolitan, is the band director for Eisenhower’s band. I’ve spent almost my entire life watching the evolution of these four different marching bands, and I, myself, have spent the last five years playing for Warren’s marching band.
Your proposal to combine all four of the county’s marching bands into one band, though well-meaning, would be a bad idea for several reasons, many of which are finance based and other logistical issues. Creating a “super band” sounds like a good idea, and a simplistic fix that avoids the real issue. The reason that numbers are declining not just in the marching band, but also in all arts and humanities classes in our schools is because of the way that scheduling is worked out in the schools across the district.
It starts at the elementary level. The district makes it difficult for students to play an instrument because there’s not much time in the schedule that permits them to have lessons. Students are pulled out of classes once a week if they want to learn an instrument, which makes it unfair because they’re missing out on their education. Some students are missing out on music altogether because their parents do not want them missing classes for band or choir. In middle school, this becomes a bit better because classes are offered for band and choir, however, at Beaty you can only take one or the other, not both, which forces students to choose between either band or choir. By the time you get to high school, students are given seven periods a day for four years to get all required credits. You know what doesn’t make the cut? Band, Art, Choir, Home Ec., and many other electives.
It’s unfair to the teachers of these electives when their program goes down the drain because they don’t have the numbers. It’s unfair to the students who are, again, forced to choose between core classes and the arts. The way that our schedule is set up in school doesn’t allow us much time to do anything other than core classes.
It’s even harder on students in the advanced-placement and honors track because their schedules are even more restricted. As an AP and Honors student, I have faced the struggle of not being able to take certain classes because there is only one option to take an advanced class and it conflicts with an elective. Many of the advanced placement kids are musically and artistically talented, and while they love doing those things, many of them end up not choosing music classes because they have to choose the higher level classes that will help them get into college.
This carries on to the marching bands and directly affects participation. Because we have kids not able to take band in school, the majority of them won’t do marching band because they feel that they haven’t played enough to be able to perform on a weekly basis. If we want to solve the problem of adding numbers to our marching bands, we need to look into school scheduling. We need to try to increase students’ interest in music and the Arts from a young age, and not only do that, but work to keep those numbers and keep those students interested. That starts by giving them the opportunity to be able to take those music and art classes by minimizing scheduling conflicts, not by creating a “super band.”
(Warren Area High School senior)