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Mailbag: Save elementary music program

May 17, 2010

The May 14 article, “Instrumental instructors — Four teachers who serve five schools are among those on layoff list,” made my heart skip many beats. Music education has been an integral part of our public educational system since Lowell Mason established music education in Boston schools in 1893.

“The schools that produced the highest academic achievement in the United States today are spending 20% to 30% of the day on the arts, with special emphasis on music,” according to the International Assn. for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.

Most everyone will agree on the value of music education, but since we are in tough economic times, I want to address the economic advantage of keeping elementary school music.

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The $400,000 saved by eliminating elementary music would be a foolish short-term investment. At the elementary level, the more students who are in music classes, the less “strain” those students add to other classes. When the music students have their time in band, it frees up other students for one-on-one instruction or group work.

At the middle and high school level, music teachers typically teach more students than the average teacher. At Crescenta Valley High School, over the past eight years, I have taught as few as 250 students to as many as 320 students in one day. That averages out to 50 to 64 students a period.

I know that by having those motivated students involved in music, I am able to potentially decrease the class size for other subjects offered at the same time. If music in the elementary schools were eliminated, there would inevitably be less participation in middle and high school music classes, thus increasing the class size in the core subjects.

I am a graduate of Hoover High School, have been teaching in the Glendale Unified School District for 16 years, and have had firsthand experience with elementary, middle and high school music. All the music teachers work on shoestring budgets with generous help from parents, the community and former students.

I know personally that the board understands the importance of music education. I hope that they also understand that by eliminating the most important part of public music education for budgetary purposes, they will cause even greater budgetary issues in the years to come.

I know that we all need to tighten our belts to get through this period, but eliminating a vital program is not the answer.

MATHEW SCHICK

La Crescenta

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