Student newspaper of Kirkwood High School.

The Kirkwood Call

The cost of music: priceless

art by Kathryn Eilert

Thomas Birmingham, news-features writer

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Luckily, Proposition K has passed, but this story serves as a reminder of the importance of the measure within the school district.

Right now, there are over 290 third and fourth graders scattered across the district with a growing sense of excitement about the upcoming school year. Their fingers tingle at the prospect of holding shiny new instruments and playing with their friends when August rolls around. They take pride in joining the ranks of the acclaimed Kirkwood band and orchestra programs. But if Proposition K fails, these students will be forced to pack up their instruments, along with their aspirations, until they reach middle school.

This would devastate the future of KHS band and orchestra programs. As a band member, I’ve seen first hand the difference a year can make. The failure of Proposition K would remove a year of progress, refinement and overall growth from the band. Orchestra faces even more dire cuts; two full years would be lost if the tax levy does not pass.

This year, the KHS Symphony Orchestra was one of three high school programs in the nation selected to play at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Without beginning student instruction in elementary school, the chances of future KHS ensembles receiving such an honor are next to none.

According to Jeff Melsha, KHS band director, the loss of elementary school music would also put an enormous amount of pressure on the music staffs of Nipher and North Kirkwood Middle Schools. Currently, teachers are spread across the elementary schools so each student has a chance to learn from a staffer who understands their particular instrument. Without the elementary school program, one teacher would essentially be forced to teach over 100 students how to play their instruments at the same time.

And as if that weren’t enough, a community veto of Proposition K would rob incoming band students the opportunity to start learning music at the prime age. According to PBS, kids roughly 10 and under are the most receptive to understanding and interpreting music for the first time. By cutting the elementary school music program, not only would teachers be forced to begin instruction as much as two years outside this range, but students would be at a significant disadvantage if they wish to audition for high-achieving groups such as the All-State Band upon reaching high school.

This cut would serve as a slap in the face to a program that has been expanding steadily the last few years, with over 400 students in the combined band and orchestra programs. A rejection of Proposition K would be akin to the Kirkwood community punishing these programs, which have been some of the prides of KHS for roughly a decade, for nothing more than costing money.

I began my band career as a fourth grader at St. Peter’s Catholic School (STP). We only met twice a week and had roughly 30 members in the whole band. Then I walked into KHS as a freshman and was met with this gargantuan band machine, eight times the size of STP’s, with a staggering level of proficiency and coordination. Needless to say, I was impressed. But if the students of KSD have to wait to start learning until sixth grade, the meager St. Peter Concert Band would have a significant advantage over the future ensembles of the two Kirkwood middle schools.

Music and band, in general, have shaped the last eight years of my life and helped make me who I am today. Words cannot describe the pride I feel in working and performing with such a respected group of people. Words cannot describe the beauty in that last note of a performance, the haunting resonance as the audience holds their breath before the applause. These indescribable experiences leave an impact on people most other activities can’t, which is why it is so frightening that they could be compromised by the community’s rejection of a single bill.

So I urge those of you considering voting “no” on Proposition K to really consider the consequences of your vote. You would be voting against the 24 percent of all KHS students who are involved in instrumental music. You would be threatening the promise of future KHS ensembles. You would deprive those young elementary school students the opportunity to begin an activity that could change their life. And if you are still uncertain, I ask that you simply take the time to attend a band or an orchestra concert. What you hear might just change your mind.

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Student newspaper of Kirkwood High School.
The cost of music: priceless