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PhiNotPi's avatar

How would I convince a school district of the importance of fifth grade music education (see details)?

Asked by PhiNotPi (12677points) March 12th, 2012

Long story:

Recently, I have noticed that one of my past schools has pretty much removed fifth grade band from their music education. It used to be a class that I took, but it was recently downgraded to an after-school program.

The fifth grade band program was again downgraded to a before-school program, meeting twice a week for twenty minutes. It takes a lot of time to put on a good concert, but when you add in the fact that these people probably hadn’t touched their instruments before, forty minutes a week is simply not enough time for a band to practice.

I just recently watched a video of their concert, and it was admittedly terrible (I can speak my true opinion here because I am anonymous). They played stuff such as Hot Cross Buns and Mary Had a Little Lamb and were extremely out of tune, even by beginning band standards.

The band was so small that it may not even meet the standard definition of a band. There were nine members in total: Five trumpets, one clarinet, three flutes.

I feel like the fifth grade band program is doing more harm than good. It damages the image of the rest of the district’s music education program (it was part of a school assembly, everyone at the school saw it). I feel that the terrible quality of the concert was not due to the students, or even the new part-time band conductor, but to the disproportionately small amount of energy and money the district as willing to put into the program.

I feel that fifth grade music education is important because it gives those kids a one-year head start before they go to middle school and the real band stuff begins (competitions and the like). Now, the sixth grade band is going to be the beginning band and everyone would have one less year of band experience. It also allows people to try out playing a musical instrument before the rest of the academics begin to take up too much time.

The main question is: How would I convince the school district of this?

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15 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

I suspect that it is a budgetary issue. Every public school in my area has had to cut back, with great reluctance, many programs that they love. They have to make draconian decisions.

Would you have any time to volunteer? Otherwise, you are, sadly, whistling in the wind.

Do you go to the school board meetings when they discuss and explain the budget? It is a cautionary tale.

JLeslie's avatar

Is there any music class at all for the elementary students? We had music class, but I don’t think we had band in elementary school? I think it was left to the parents to get classes for their young children. Not sure. My first elementary school was very arts oriented, we had an incredible music room, with so many different intruments, but I don’t think there was a band class children could take.

@gailcalled do you remember band when you were younger in the elementary schools?

gailcalled's avatar

No, but that was a very long time ago. We had some rudimentary music classes several times a week.

There was a marching band in high school; they played, badly, at all the football games.

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled You grew up in NY right?

ETpro's avatar

Children who don’t start music lessons early are almost certain to miss the opportunity to develop perfect pitch. Fifth grade is too late for that, though. My younger son began music at 5, and did develop absolute pitch. Only about 3% of the musicians who begin lessons after age 6 develop absolute pitch. Many will have relative pitch, being able to recognize a note based on the intervals between it and other notes they know. But absolute pitch, being able to hear a single tone and definitively say, that’s a C sharp, is rare in even accomplished musicians who don’t start studying music before they turn 7.

gailcalled's avatar

@JLeslie: Yes, in Larchmont from the third grade on.

@Etpro: The last paragraphs of the article on acquiring perfect pitch at a young age says:

“But most musicians who said they had started training by the age of 6 did not have perfect pitch, suggesting that training alone is not enough, said the researchers, from the University of California at San Francisco.

The survey also found that musicians who reported having perfect pitch were four times as likely than other musicians to say they had a relative with the ability. That suggests that perfect pitch may run in certain families, the researchers said. They reported their findings in the February issue of The American Journal of Human Genetics.”

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled I was generalizing that NY tends to be arts oriented, especially years ago. It was my elementary in Westchester County that was amazing. The classes for art, music, skits and plays, and even the poetry we did in elementary school was amazing in my opinion. When I moved to MD in 5th grade the difference in the arts realm was drastic.

gasman's avatar

@gailcalled Perfect pitch is significantly more common among people who speak tonal languages such as Chinese Ref.

In 4th grade we learned a little about musical notation and played plastic recorder flutes. In 5th grade kids who were interested began the band program. I started saxophone and have been playing ever since. Music has been central to my life and I feel I owe much of my interest, ability & enjoyment of music to an early formal education in grade school.

Schools that can’t afford a music program (or instruction in other arts) provide an impoverished education indeed.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Just do the research. IQ levels, grades, lower juvenile delinquency, college admissions, college graduation, earning levels. All of these things are positively affected by music education. I haven’t had to research it since my daughter was in school, but I cannot believe the results of research would be different today.

JLeslie's avatar

@MollyMcGuire I always wondered if music was the cause? Or, just correlative. Kids raised with the arts in general, including music, tend to have parents who have higher IQ’s, parents who are more involved, etc.

bkcunningham's avatar

@PhiNotPi, do you attend the school board’s or the county’s budget workshops/meetings when they are going over the upcoming year’s budgets? That would be the first place I’d start if I wanted to try and make a change.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

@JLeslie Music and art curriculum was never in jeopardy in my local school system. However, I have two friends who are art teachers, one in elementary school and one in high school in the same system (but not my local system). Years ago that system decided to save money by discontinuing both music and art classes. The three of us went to bat, not for those two jobs, but for hundreds of kids who deserved that curriculum to be part of their overall school experience. I would also suggest to anyone interested in this subject to rent/buy the video called Music of the Heart, the true story of a music teacher and her music program in East Harlem’s schools. The same story is revealed in the 1996 documentary called Small Wonders. I’m passionate about the arts in schools and children being exposed to them—there is no age too young!

JLeslie's avatar

@MollyMcGuire Oh, I am very aware how music programs can change lives. My grandfather was an artist, my aunt went to Music and Art high school in NYC, you don’t have to convince me about the arts. Still, I don’t think it necessarily increases IQ. The kids with the higher IQ’s are probably attracted to the programs, and the parents who show interest in their children are probably more likely to inspire their kids to audition for such programs. There are exceotions, and many insoirational stories, but I still think my generalizations are likely correct.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

I do not. That’s why I encouraged the research.

JLeslie's avatar

@MollyMcGuire Well, experts seem to have some conflicting studies and claims. The Mozart Effect was one of the first, very popular theories. I think it was not a well conducted study, no control groups, I could be wrong about that.

Later other studies were done that concluded While some supportive reports have been published (e.g. [7]), studies with positive results have tended to be small, and indicate that while any form of music with energetic and positive emotional qualities.[8] can be arousing, there is no effect on IQ or spatial ability [9]


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