There is an evil specter that is lurking in our schools across the nation. It casts a shadow on the land in the shape of a dollar sign, leaving behind a trail of music program corpses that have been destroyed by school districts cutting out arts programs or drastically reducing their budgets.
I cannot remember a day where the soundtrack echoing in my head was silent. From checking into Spotify to start my day, or occasionally day dreaming about the dozens of concerts I have attended in person as I quietly hum to myself while shuffling down the halls of Perkiomen Valley High School during the change of periods. For this quirky, fun loving, somewhat eclectic girl, the beat is omnipresent in my life.
I would love to share with you several reasons why cutting music and arts programs would be beneficial to a school district or administration and acceptable to all involved, but when the smoke clears, there is only one reason such a calamity would be allowed to occur. The almighty dollar!
So maybe I am off base here, after all, what impact do music programs have on our lives? Who could possibly be affected by a school cutting out a simple music program to save money?
“It affects everyone, communities are proud when there is a strong music program.” said David C. Overholtzer, director of band at Perkiomen Valley High School. “Music is a part of our lives everywhere-birthdays, weddings, funerals, sporting events…..imagine a world without !”
The money makers would like you to think that there are monumental savings to be had out there from the cuts which will be spread among other programs. Often, funds go to such important endeavors like team sports, repairs to existing sports facilities, or building “much needed things” like a souvenir store for the football team, but the reality is that during the school year 2009-2010 of schools with a typical music programs, a mere three percent allocated funds for dances and concerts with only 4 percent allowing money to be spent for theater activities.
“Depending on the area or size of the cuts, a school could see an inability to purchase music, acquire instruments or replace broken instruments or at worst lose teachers, Said Noah Mallitz, director of choral activities at Perkiomen Valley High School. “Any of those cuts could make a music program less desirable or even incapable of occurring, thereby decreasing enrollment which would cause increasing numbers of students in other classes.”
The foundation of why school music programs are being fleeced to begin with actually stems from the “no child left behind act” in a roundabout way. When the (NCLB act) was passed, the idea was that schools would focus attention and money towards the core subjects like reading and math that require standardized testing. And as it happens all too often in life, good results ( higher scores) as usual require throwing money at the problem.
So, all things being considered ,where would cutting the funds have the greatest impact and what can we do to prevent a catastrophic failure that has far reaching future repercussions on life as we know it?
“Cutting funding at the Elementary [School] level hurts the most.” Mr Overholtzer said. “People assume that cuts to the lower grades won’t matter, because they are less visible than high school groups. It is simply not true! Reducing funding [there] is like not having a foundation for a house, it doesn’t matter what you build on top of it if it does not have a strong base.”
Plain and simple, music is a part of life, your life, my life, and has been since the first drum was ever beaten or note was ever sung.How can we put a price tag on that?
How much is it worth to see a baby shake it’s first rattle (that’s music) or how much money can be saved by sacrificing such memories and a teenager’s first dance at homecoming or the king and queen taking their laps on the floor at prom. Without such foundations, life itself as we know would be an anemic version of what it is today.
When it comes to cutting out valuable formative experiences that these programs provide like playing your first note on the piano, or a child’s first recital or the high school band and chorus putting on the annual Christmas concert in front of a packed house of parents and grandparents carrying on the proud tradition, there is no price tag that is worth it.
When it comes to cutting music and arts programs at Perkiomen Valley School district, money is not the root of all evil, it is evil at its deepest, darkest form.
Music has been the road map of my young life so far, from spending a day in New York City with my high school friend to seeing a concert at Madison Square Garden, to performing solo on stage at the Middle School East talent show, there is not a day that goes by that music is not at the forefront of my being and soul. To quote John Lennon, (whose memorial I saw in Central Park) I can’t even nor do I want to “Imagine“ a world with no music.