By Brian K. Schum
March 01, 2006
The problem I am referring to relates to musical education within the Ketchikan school district. I am the father of three children all of whom participate in musical education programs within the Ketchikan school system. I am not sure that the community at large is aware just how close the music program is to dwindling away to nothing. The high school program on the surface appears to be doing ok but the fact there is a pep band at high school basketball games does not mean that the program is vital and being sustained.
Currently my eldest son is in ninth grade and participates in high school band. I count him fortunate that he has a musical program to attend and approximately twenty-four fellow ninth grade students to participate in the program with. My second son is an eighth grader about to go on to high school next year. Last night I asked him how many fellow students participated in eighth grade band, his reply was approximately twelve he also indicated he believed there to be about the same number of seventh graders. My daughter is a sixth grader at Point Higgins looking forward to moving on to Schoenbar soon (maybe by the time she s twenty one it will be completed) and she too indicates there are very few students participating.
At this current rate of decline, I would estimate there would be no band in the Ketchikan school system in the very near future. There simply will not be enough children participating to allow it. The school system is always in dire need of money and cutting the funding for musical education would be extremely tempting if there is low participation. Now I recognize that many people in Ketchikan will just shrug and say so what? But in my estimation a lack of a vital music program is a tremendous potential loss to this community and more importantly a serious loss to the comprehensive education of our children.
Music provides a creative outlet to so many young people and its positive effects cannot be overstated. A vital musical program can provide direction and positive sense of purpose to many kids. Remember not all children are gifted enough to participate in high school or even middle school sports. For many children music is their opportunity to shine and be recognized. Music can be their interest and passion not just when young, but for a lifetime.
In my opinion there are many reasons why this program is failing there is lack of support and more importantly commitment on many levels. The borough, school board, school administration, parents, teachers and community at large have a stake in ensuring these critical programs are supported and funded. I did not write this missive to point fingers at any individuals but to try and draw attention to the fact I feel we have a serious problem in Ketchikan. I would like to see more commitment from parents, teachers and school administrators to ensure that musically related programs are supported and emphasized within the school.
We are lucky enough in this community to have some very talented and dedicated musicians that are outside the school system. Some children can avail themselves of these opportunities for musical instruction and guidance i.e. McPherson s music. But these organizations cannot be expected to carry the burden; nor can all children s parents afford to provide private lessons and musical camps. It is up to us as a community to decide if we care enough about a musical program to support it within our schools and push for the funding and oversight that would be necessary to restore this program.
If you too feel a strong musical program is desirable in the Ketchikan school district please let your voices be heard and your support given so that the educators and school administrators in our community know this is an issue that the people of Ketchikan care about. A large number of kids in our area are counting on us to ensure they receive a well-rounded education. Here is one avenue to truly provide something of great value to the children of our town and I cannot help but have the feeling we are failing them and in most cases do not even know it.
Thank you for your time.
Brian K. Schum
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