With the incredible focus on student achievement in core areas such as reading and math, it may seem a luxury to offer courses in stringed instruments. But it is not.
Musical education of all kinds helps develop math skills, makes students more well-rounded people and serves as a creative outlet for young people who are – let’s face it – more creative than the previous generation.
It was disappointing, to be honest, to hear school board member Jim Martin foist the blame for Wake County’s dwindling strings program on principals who, he said, are allowed to spend their curriculum funding as they see fit.
More more productive, we believe, would have been an admission on the school board’s part that strings – and other musical programs in Wake County – have long been woefully underfunded. Band and chorus students aren’t quite in the dire straits that the county’s strings program are in – but parents are required to pay extra fees to particpate in those programs. Those fees range anwhere from $200 to $1,000 per year. Advocates for the county’s strings programs probably only wish their biggest problem was paying an annual fee. (Last time we checked, by the way, football players don’t pay a fee to be on the football team.)
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But students who want to play the cello, viola, violin or some other stringed instrument are finding it more and more unlikely they will continue to be able to do so.
The bottleneck appears to be in the middle schools, a place where most musical concentrations begin. Cuts to middle school arts programs have shuttered programs, meaning the schools that send string players to high schools are no longer sending seasoned musicians. That will spell the death of a high school program in about three years time.
School board members often refer to their efforts at redistricting as taking a holistic approach. Though they may be moving just a few batches of children around, those moves are important because of how they impact other students.
Those same school board members should try taking that same holistic approach to funding for the arts and as they do, they should remind themselves that providing for those students also has an impact on all the students in a school.