Thursday, March 4, 2010

Soapbox Alert!

Paul McCartney once said: "I love to hear a choir. I love the humanity of seeing the faces of real people devoting themselves to a piece of music. I like the teamwork. It makes me feel optimistic about the human race when I see them cooperating like that."

I'm with Paul. I love choirs. I got to hear a few choirs yesterday at a league high school music festival. (And some bands, too!)

I just wish more people had seen that demonstration of teamwork and cooperation. I am always struck by how few parents come to music festivals. Yesterday, I was at the festival just as an observer. And while there were some parents and grandparents at the event, they certainly weren't filling the bleachers like they do for a basketball or football game.

Granted, the music festival is during the day. For some people, it's difficult to take the time away from work. But, on the other hand, how many people leave work early to get to an away ballgame? Been there, done that!

Anyone who knows me very well knows I love sports. I love my Stafford Trojans, my Skyline Thunderbirds, my K-State Wildcats. I support those teams no matter what - win or lose. I don't have a great deal of patience for people who get on the bandwagon only when things are good. Several years ago, there were quite a few people who had Purple Pride during football season and switched their allegiance to KU during hoops season. I think there's a great deal to be said for loyalty. Case in point: I was a K-State football fan back in the 1970s. Was it fun to lose? No, but I was there week after week. Did that past history make the Bill Snyder era even sweeter? Undoubtedly.

People see the value of teamwork in team sports. We say we involve our children in sports so they develop a sense of team, a spirit of cooperation.

But children can find the same teamwork through music. And it's not over the minute you walk out the high school door with diploma in hand (or it doesn't have to be).

I was very fortunate. My parents paid for a whole lot of piano and voice lessons. Did I sometimes sit at the piano and watch the timer tick slowly toward the 30-minute mark so I could be done for the day? Yes, I did, especially when it came to practicing the piano.

But what skills do I use today? No one is asking me to shoot or dribble a basketball (actually, no one was asking me to do that too much in junior high or high school either. I did a great job at holding down my end of the bench!)

Today, I still experience the teamwork of music. Why else would I make a 30-minute round trip to Stafford and interrupt my day to accompany for middle school choir? Why devote time on Wednesday evenings to go to church for choir practice or sit in the choir loft instead of with my family on Sunday mornings? Why do I brainstorm ways I can try to get those middle school soloists to breathe right, open their mouths and let the sound out?

Music will be with me for as long as my body allows. (As I've said repeatedly, Randy has been told he will need to drag me kicking and screaming out of the choir loft when my soprano voice fails me.) It can be that way for today's children, too. But we, as a society, have to make it a priority.

I am concerned about the current climate of school budget cuts. At Stafford this year, the elementary music program was cut initially. Thankfully, a donor made it possible for the program to continue. What a wonderful gift to our community!

There seems to be a movement among parents today to make time for the club volleyball, the little kids' wrestling, the MAYB basketball. This is all done with the intent that it will build better sports programs in our schools.

But I think we can look at proposed cuts to the music and arts in our public schools in a similar way. Stafford's middle school and high school music program is strong. The choir and the band received I ratings at this week's league festival. But what if our younger students aren't exposed to music in grade school? What if they don't begin to explore two-part or three-part music? What if they didn't learn anything about notes or experience the joy of music until they were in middle school?

There are rumblings about further cuts to Kansas education. I understand that no one wants "their" program cut. But here's another quote to think about:

"Change is not reform any more than noise is music."

Taking away music is not the solution, any more than noise is music.

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