SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



Support music education
By Rob Holston


March 02, 2006
Thursday PM

In 1981 I moved to Ketchikan to assume the position of choir and band director at Schoenbar Jr. Hi. Roy McPherson was K-High band director and things were good. I taught at Schoenbar for many years and typically we had three & sometimes four bands: 7th grade, 8th grade, stage band and often beginning band for those new to the district. I usually had two or three choirs. 7th & 8th grade bands averaged 50+ students per band with 65+ students occasionally. The present numbers represent a fraction of that.

I believe two things have eroded the band & choir programs at the Jr. Hi. and they are and will take an ever increasing toll at the high school level as well. Those two things are economics and scheduling. Let me address economics: When I began teaching at Schoenbar in 1981 the price per barrel of Alaskan crude, as I vaguely recall, must have been around $20-$25. I moved from Montana and over doubled my teaching income by doing so because Alaska, at that time, had the highest paid teachers in all of America. Since then Alaska's teacher pay has been surpassed by several other states. Ketchikan's music teaching staff back in the early and mid 1980's had 7 & 1/2 music positions filled district wide. Each elementary school had its own music, band & choir teacher (along with a nurse & counselor and some graphic art instruction too. We even had a string orchestra! I might add). As oil revenue slumped, music positions were cut (along with nurses, counselors & art teachers).

We now have one elementary music teacher trying to do what 4 & 1/2 music teachers did "back in the good ol' days".

It seems that these positions disappeared when oil revenue declined to the mid and low teens and it seems logical now that with oil sitting at a never before dreamed of price of $50-$60 per barrel we should be in the economic position of supporting our students at the 1980's level of music education.

You can not have a good K-high music department with out a fresh supply of students from the Jr. Hi. and the Jr. Hi. must have a viable feeder system from the elementary schools. During the 1980's, music, band and choir were high priority programs that the community took a great deal of pride in.

Ketchikan now faces the prospect of doing away with elementary music, band and choir completely! This is a sad day for Ketchikan students. I urge those responsible for this decision to examine the historical past and review the national, state and local curriculum recommendations for music education. Please support music education in our schools.

Rob Holston
E-mail: holston(at)
Ketchikan, AK - USA

About: Rob Holston is a retired Ketchikan Music Teacher.


Related Viewpoint:

letter Musical education program close to dwindling away By Brian K. Schum - Ward Cove, AK - USA


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