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|Summer is drawing to an end. The days have started getting shorter. Students are getting a little bit tired of the unstructured time that they have enjoyed in recent weeks. Some of them may even admit, though not in the company of their friends, that they are looking forward to going back to school.
" I wonder who my new teacher is going to be. "
" Do third graders get much homework, Dad? "
" I wonder what we'll do when violin lessons start back up. "
But MANY OF OUR STUDENTS WILL NOT BE GOING BACK TO VIOLIN LESSONS. Why? The reason is simply economics. Music programs are expensive to run. They are especially expensive if there is individual instruction involved.
And, like it or not, ORCHESTRA IS NOT THE PROGRAM OF CHOICE FOR THE MAJORITY OF OUR YOUTH!!!
When is the last time you saw the Marching Orchestra take the field at the Friday Night Football Spectacular? At the NCAA Basketball Tournament this Spring, did you see the Pep Quartet right there next to the cheerleaders? ( " Wow, Dad, look at that cellist! I bet he has to fight off the girls at the end of the night! " )
We need to convince school administrators and school boards that a healthy music program MUST INCLUDE STRINGS.
I have listed several points below which you can use as you discuss string programs with people in your community. Several of them are based upon statements made by the American String Teachers Association.
Why Should School Districts Provide a Strings Program ?
1. All students are capable of playing a stringed instrument regardless of "talent" or musical background, a concept that in the past was often considered critical for success in strings. Strings are not inherently more difficult to master.
2. Unlike some other musical instruments, each stringed instrument comes in a variety of sizes, so that even Pre-K students can have success on strings. In fact, I have seen children produce good music on stringed instruments prior to being able to match tones vocally. Admittedly I have no dental training, but I have a hard time imagining that the pressure exerted in producing sound against the mouthpiece of a brass instrument is beneficial in forming properly aligned teeth.
3. Orchestral music, which is considered one of Western culture's greatest legacies, requires a string section. Broadway-style musicals are almost universally declared distinctively American. Very few of these musicals have been written to be performed without a string section.
4. A good string and orchestra education, existing within a comprehensive music program, is a hallmark of a fine school district. Without a string program, students in a school band (woodwind, brass, and percussionists) cannot perform the orchestral and choral masterworks as they are intended to be performed.
5. Music for stringed instruments exists in most cultures around the world. Knowing just the basics opens doors to multi-cultural music from jazz, country, pop and mariachi to music from across the centuries.
6. Stringed Instruments are an excellent means to demonstrate the physics of sound. On no other type of instrument is it possible to VISIBLY demonstrate the effect of the change of amplitude or frequency on sound.
7. Music for stringed instruments can be played by a single player, a duo, a quartet, or by an ensemble of over one hundred. The social reward of belonging to a community of string musicians is incredibly motivating and fulfilling.
8. There are numerous professional and community opportunities to play stringed instruments beyond high school and for many people it becomes a lifelong avocation.
9. In every school, there are students who are instinctively attracted to the sound of stringed instruments. No other form of musical performance speaks to them with the same intensity. Without a string and orchestra program to provide access to string students are denied the possibility of realizing their potential. These students are no less valuable than those who enjoy playing a trumpet, drums or flute. These students should be afforded the same rights as those who prefer to sing.