Elementary Strings Should be Part of Madison's Core Curriculum
by Andrea Gilmore, age 18
I am lucky. I have been playing the violin since I was in the fourth grade. I was exposed to music at an early age and music has helped me gain skills that have enhanced my school career. Through music, I learned self-confidence, self-discipline, time management, cooperation, and study skills.
Unfortunately, many young people may not have the opportunity I had.
The elementary strings program costs only $500,000 in a budget of more than $350 million. School board members recently decided to keep the elementary strings program next year in some form, while cutting approximately $500,000 overall out of the music-education programs.
Elementary strings programs are essential to the development of our community’s young people and should be supported in all Madison Schools.
One reason elementary strings programs are crucial to schools is that music programs help close the minority-student-achievement gap. Music programs, when incorporated in the academic curriculum, increase academic achievement of minority and low-income students.
Eliminating programs like elementary strings only adds to the widening differences among students that is often based on family income. The opportunity to play in an orchestra or to receive music education should not be based on whether parents can afford private lessons. If school districts eliminate music programs, students from low-income families will be adversely affected.
According to University of Wisconsin music professor Richard Davis, “underprivileged children will suffer the most. It’s another way of letting those who can afford it get the opportunities. The fear is that you’re going to have a very one-sided warped community, where one world will have all of the exposure and sophistication, and the other world won’t.”
Music and fine arts should be part of the core curriculum in our schools. I attribute much of my success in school, and in life, to my experience with music. I sincerely hope every fourth grader in Madison has this important opportunity.
A young person learning how to play music, who can put a price on that? School Board, please make your cuts elsewhere.
[Sources: Ruth Robarts of the Madison School Board; The Capital Times]