Fight for Music

By: Dan Ponce
By: Dan Ponce

Ask any music teacher about the importance of a fine arts education and you're likely to hear many of the same responses.

"Music rounds out a student completely," said Tom Jones, orchestra conductor at Everett High School. "We're trying to educate a whole person here; it carries over into their other academics, the discipline, the attention to detail and the focus."

Students like Melissa Potts, a cellist and senior at Everett, said her experience in the Lansing School District music program has helped tremendously in preparing her to study kinesiology next year at the University of Michigan.

"[Music] helps you with precision, accuracy. Putting the music together is like science," Potts said.

But all across the country fine arts programs are being threatened by budget cuts and here in Mid-Michigan it's no different.

Even the East Lansing school district - which has one of the strongest fine arts programs in the area- has seen its fair share of cuts.

"We're taking hits just like everyone else, said Jane Church, the band director. "We have less money to work with than last year, and the year before."

But Church said despite budget cuts the district continues to recognize the fine arts.

"The administration understands that it would not be beneficial to cut from the arts," Church said.

Jeff English, the choir teacher, said the district's success is also because parents continue to encourage arts education from the ground up.

"Families recognize the importance of arts in their lives and encourage their children to get involved," English said.

Music teachers agree that it's important that students start at an early age. In the Lansing school district, elementary schools have outstanding music programs. The problems start when the students get to middle school.

"The elementary schools are doing a great job, but the middle schools are losing future music students," said Tom Jones, who has been teaching music in the Lansing school district for 28 years.

Jones said the only way to re-build the high school music programs is to re-build the middle school programs that feed into them.

He said Pleasant View, the district's magnet middle school for the fine arts, is the only middle school that has the resources to adequately prepare students in all areas of the fine arts.

"The importance of the arts cannot be underestimated," added Jeff English, "the core subjects are wonderful and necessary but the arts are very important in terms of self expression and students need that; we all need that."

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