Support needed for harmony in music department

Nov. 13, 2003, midnight | By Nora Onley | 20 years, 7 months ago

Montgomery County should provide additional funding for fine arts programs at Blair

With an increased emphasis on standardized testing, Blair's interest in fine arts, most notably in the music department, has significantly decreased. Although Blair is the second-largest high school in the county, it has one of the smallest music departments.

Music education is an important component of the curriculum. It's time MCPS reexamined our music program. The department is suffering from a lack of resources and interest.

The county does not provide enough money to finance Blair's award-winning music department. As a result of the expenses of Blair's music program, the booster clubs and parents have been forced to assume responsibility for closing the funding gap.  Ed Varrone of the booster club says that the county doesn't provide enough for the program's needs. "With respect to the county's contributions, what we see from the county is a rather small allocation of money." Varrone says more money should go to adequately staffing the department.

The lack of resources is not the only problem Blair's music department faces.

The Connections class required for all ninth graders is taking students away from Blair's music department, causing them to miss out on a core element of the curriculum, according to Leland Comstock of the booster club.  Comstock says that freshmen entering high school are given the clear message that taking an art class is a better way to earn their fine arts credit than taking a music class.  "If a typical student takes six academic courses—math, science, history, English, a foreign language, the Connections course—and feels compelled to take P.E., there is no period left for music," says Comstock.

Some educators maintain that music education should be a low priority compared to academic subjects such as English, science and mathematics.  But these critics are overlooking the positive impact that music education has on student success.  Ardene Shafer, director of Public Relations and Marketing for The National Association for Musical Education, says that participating in music education classes improves students' schoolwork and ability to learn.  "Young students learning music on the keyboard or any other type of instrument have better spatial understanding which later helps them with complex math skills," she says.

Other schools such as Wootton high school offer AP music theory classes as well as music theatre classes.

Montgomery County must increase its support for the music department to take some of the load off the parents who have kept this program going for the past few years.  If the county is truly committed to excellence, it has to provide more money for our music program.

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