By Double Bass Blog Contributor Phillip W. Serna
"The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of a nation, is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose – and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization." – President John F. Kennedy
In Naperville, IL, a western suburb of Chicago, Indian Prairie School District 204 is on the verge of cutting 19 music positions at the elementary & middle school levels, crippling an award-winning music program. These sorts of cuts directly hurt the students in the district and continue a trend of marginalization of the performing arts in this country. More often than naught in these frustrating economic times, the first programs the get the axe are often in the visual and performing arts.
Neuqua Valley High School, where I teach double bass and viols, has brought much renown to this city and has won recognition from the Grammy Foundation – a testament to the strong orchestra, band & choir programs. Additionally, I have spent a good deal of time in the classroom doing outreach residencies – although the real heroes in this district have been the dedicated music faculty. I get to see the fruits of their labor firsthand on nearly a daily basis! To excise elementary level instrumental music, and eliminate technique instruction at the middle school level all together, the district is in position to neuter this program. The curriculum they have created is the backbone of the music program, and the short-sightedness of this move is irresponsible and offensive. In a musical sense, they are cutting a student’s 1st and 2nd grade education. Access to quality instruction is a right and not a privilege – and for myself, I cannot have a clear conscience if I do not speak up.
I do not exaggerate by any means. The other two high schools in the district, Waubonsee Valley High School and Metea Valley High School (which opened in 2009), also host programs on par with Neuqua and would feel the damage within just a couple of school years. The impact of such cuts, which seem disproportionate to the other departments in the district, would be felt at the high school level within 2 school years. This would not only vastly diminish musical and cultural literacy across the district, but the performance level (a tangible part of this debate) would suffer greatly – say goodbye to any future Grammy recognition.
As a private music instructor in the district I do have an investment of time and energy, but as districts move to cut music programs, the ramifications will be felt for decades. As a university music instructor I will see a decline in enrollment and performance quality, and much worse, the simple understanding of the larger social trends within out cultural history will continue to slip away. The arts are integral to these students actually having a culture, and a way to see and compare the diverse traditions that surround them on a daily basis. This is what spurs imagination and innovation – not only the need for performance on standardized tests.
Seeing the development of students from 5th-grade through college in a variety of school districts, I have always thought of District 204 as an oasis in the western suburbs. Now? The desert is coming to engulf it and it is our responsibility as students, supporters and educators in the arts to go against this trend and take action. Please help the alumni, parents, current students, and music faculty know you support them by taking action! Please lend your voice to this cause that will undoubtedly be a central struggle in arts-education across the country in the coming years!
For those that are nearby (or not) please take a moment to sign the petition- the students and parents in this district deeply need your support! http://www.petitiononline.com/IPD204M/petition.html For current updates on the situation, visit the Facebook Group at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=361847504173#!
A special meeting of the IPSD School board has been called for Monday, April 5th at the IPSD Board Offices, 780 Shoreline Drive, Aurora, IL 60564.
The opinions stated here reflect the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Jason Heath or the Jason Heath’s Double Bass Blog. To contact Phillip W. Serna, visit www.phillipwserna.com or www.violsinourschools.org.
From a letter circulated by concerned parents in District 204:
Take ACTION Today!
Contact Superintendent, Kathryn Birkett and our School Board members. If you are a parent, student, alumni, or just plain someone who enjoys music, please let them know why you think this program is beneficial for students and should be maintained. Cuts do not have to be this drastic. Please share positive anecdotes. Most importantly, Please keep all correspondence civil and respectful.
How to take ACTION:
Send a note via US MAIL to the Superintendent and School Board members. The Central Office address is: Indian Prairie District 204, 780 Shoreline Drive, Aurora, IL 60504 Contact the Media: Reach out to Radio Host, Steve Cochran @ WGN Radio (who is a District 204 resident) http://www.wgnradio.com/about/contactus/email/weekday/ Contact “Our Favorite Weatherman”, Paul Konrad (WGN TV), who was a 204 music student at: email@example.com Write a letter to the editor of local and metropolitan newspapers.
The Naperville Sun, www.napersun.com
P.O. Box 4830, Naperville, IL 60567
The Daily Herald, firstname.lastname@example.org
4300 Commerce Court, Lisle, IL 60532
The Chicago Tribune – Chicagoland Extra Section, email@example.com
435 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611
The Chicago Sun-Times, www.suntimes.com
350 N. Orleans St, 10th floor, Chicago, IL 60654
Call WGN TV @ 773-528-2311 to request TV coverage of the School Board meeting on March 22 [Next meeting is scheduled for Monday April 5th].
WGN Television, 2501 West Bradley Place, Chicago, Illinois 60618-4718