I am writing today with great concern over the future of our music programs in the Montpelier school district. As I understand it, the present proposal is to eliminate one full-time music position from our district, leaving just one teacher per school, who presumably would be asked to teach in multiple disciplines. I am a parent of two high schoolers who benefit from the music program and am a longtime musician myself, having performed in choral groups, bands and community theater groups throughout my life. It is imperative to understand that a reduction in our music programs will weaken and compromise the education of our students in the near and long term.
I believe the music teachers are already stretched thin and yet continue to do an amazing job, maintaining a viable and high-quality music program for our students (including students from all economic backgrounds), despite challenging schedules and declining enrollment. Each of our teachers is well trained in his or her specific musical discipline and was hired to instruct in this specialty. We can’t expect the choral teacher to conduct the orchestra or the orchestra teacher to direct the jazz band if we want to maintain the quality of our music education department. As a lifelong musician, I can tell you that the director/conductor makes all the difference and cannot be replaced by someone without specialized education and experience. We as a community highly value these programs and our excellent music faculty, and our district would suffer if it is not maintained at its current level.
I understand the general nature of the economic challenges we face in Montpelier, and I am also concerned with budget/tax issues. I am sympathetic to the task of keeping our school budget under control. However, taking one full-time position away from the music department is not the answer and will have unintended consequences for our students, our reputation and our future. If we reduce the music department when we are faced with declining enrollment, I foresee that the program will never fully recover. It will be difficult if not impossible to revive. The community needs to understand and take these implications into account when evaluating any cuts. I believe our music program to be an integral piece of our students’ education in the Montpelier school district and one worth preserving at its current level of staffing.
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