I Have a Gripe

December 17, 2016

Education, Not Politics

“The classroom should be apolitical.”

I’ve heard this quote several times over the years from an educator I highly respect. And I agree with this statement completely. This does not mean we should not teach civics, history, or other potentially complicated topics. What this means is that the politics of the day should be checked at the door when you walk into a classroom to teach impressionable children. The opinions of the teachers should not enter the lesson plan. I believe this for both sides of the aisle.

So why do I bring this up?

A high school friend sent me an article that sent me flying.

inaugralparade

Now regular readers of my blog know I am a huge advocate of music in public schools. My time in marching band were some of the best of my life. I had the opportunity to march at Epcot and DC. I never had the opportunity march in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, an Inaugural Parade, or even Giants Stadium like other friends. But I still loved every minute of it and I cherish the memories I have.

Many schools are opting out of the opportunity to march in the Inaugural Parade. While some are citing budget restraints or other issues, some are saying, quietly, that it is related to politics.

I think this is deplorable.

Now I understand first-hand what band directors are facing today when it comes to tight budgets, time constrains, and all the other challenges that face music programs in public schools today. This is not what I am discussing here.

The chance to march in an Inaugural Parade is an opportunity few students get to experience. These teachers should not allow their personal opinions related to the election to have anything to do with denying their students this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

To the band directors who are letting their sore feelings over the election prevent these kids the chance to be part of a small very club, I say shame on you.

January 3, 2015

Jim Rome – the True “Dork”

Filed under: General Annoyances,Marching Band,Music Education — alvb1227 @ 2:37 am
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Nothing gets my back up more than when music in school comes under attack. Well, it looks like another genius has shared a Tweet and learned the wrath of the band.

Jim Rome, host of “The Jim Rome Show” on CBS Sports Radio sent out the following Tweet yesterday.

Jim Rome
Oh yeah, that didn’t tick me off. Not at all.

Well, apparently I wasn’t the only one. He has received post after post with the hashtag #MarchOnRome to make sure it got his attention. Past and current band members, band parents, teachers let him know how displeased they were with his commentary.

What might be the best part is that he received a crushing blow from the Army Field Band.

Army BandI don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mess with them.

The truth is that it takes great skill to not only play an instrument, but simultaneously march around a field and not get decapitated by someone twirling a flag in the color guard. To say these comments infuriated me is putting it mildly.

People like Mr. Rome are under the misconception that marching band is simply there to give football players a break during halftime. The reality is marching band is very competitive. When I was in marching band I took it very seriously and looked at the football games as prep for “the real deal.”

This is a clip that originally aired as part of the 1993 DCI World Championships broadcast. It is part of a study that was done by a professor at Indiana University to see the physical demands of a modern Drum & Bugle Corps show. They hooked up one of the tenor drummers to a device that monitored heart rate and oxygen intake and then had the corps do a full run of the entire show (approx 11 minutes). It originally aired as part of the 1993 DCI World Championships broadcast. During the test the whole second half clocked in at 192 BPM accelerating to 208. Star of Indiana made history with this show and it’s a great window into how physically demanding drum corps is. Fast forward to today, many colleges and high schools perform similarly demanding shows. It is serious work.

I am incredibly proud to be one of the so-called “dorks” Rome referred to in his tweet. As I mentioned in a previous post about a similar idiot, NEVER mess with the marching band. I’m sure Mr. Rome has learned that the hard way. You sir, are the dork. Sports programs are now the “be all, end all” they once were.

April 27, 2014

Think Beyond the Bubbles – Part One in a Series

Filed under: Education,Music Education — alvb1227 @ 1:50 pm
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Think beyond the bubblesThe more I watch the news and hear about what is going on in public education, the more annoyed I become. This post is the first in a series focusing on what I think is wrong with public education and what needs to happen to fix it. My first post addresses “thinking beyond the bubbles.”

My husband is a member of the National Association for Music Education and whenever information is sent to the house or email by them, we both read it with great interest. They currently have a push to move beyond the use of standardized tests to judge a student’s intelligence and potential. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows of my disdain for standardized tests, especially when school funding and programs are cut to focus more on testing. Well, the NAfME’s new campaign shines a light on the importance of music education and how it helps students improve in school and life development. To quote their campaign…

“Music not only impacts academic achievement, it also shapes the way our students understand themselves and the world around them. Let’s think beyond the bubbles™ and educate the whole student.”

There is nothing that frustrates me more than when I see music and arts programs cut in schools in favor of test prep, sports, or other areas a bureaucrat feels is more important. Every time a music or art program is cut, that school is telling those students what they excel in doesn’t matter and they are not important.

I’ve been told by some “it isn’t like many of those children are going to become professional musicians.” Well, probably not, but many of those football players aren’t going to the NFL either.

As I have said in multiple previous blog posts, I credit the music program in my high school with the person I have become. I learned about more than music, which I loved, but I learned about teamwork, built confidence, and responsibility, to name a few important life skills.

If you are a student, parent, board of education member, teacher, or other school advocate, I encourage you to go to the NAfME’s website and learn about this important campaign.

December 8, 2013

Religious Music and Public Schools

When I was in elementary school, I loved how festive things were as we inched closer and closer to Christmas. Every class participated in decorating the school. I remember making “stained glass windows” in art class using black paper and brightly colored tissue paper. There were always two trees on either side of the stage. Each year one grade would put on a play of some sort and of course the concert.

Wow, have things changed…

Fast forward a few decades (not saying how many) and most auditoriums are bare. No trees or decorations. There was one principal I know of that would purchase poinsettia plants (using his own money, mind you) so there was something around the stage. After he retired? The stage was completely bare. Oh, and they are no longer called “Christmas concerts.” They are “holiday” or “winter” concerts.

To me, all these changes pale in comparison to the biggest issue in my opinion – the attempt to eliminate any religious music whatsoever from the concert.

When I went to high school, we ended every concert with the singing of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. Once you graduated, you would be invited to join the chorus for the singing of the piece with the current students. I can’t imagine not having that experience either as a student or after I graduated.

More and more schools are asking music teachers to submit their program for review and approval. There is great concern by some that the concept of separation of church and state should include the elimination of all music with a reference to some type of religious reference. As I see it, there are two major issues related to this entire situation.

First, the separation of church and state today has been taken completely out of context. The original reason for this separation was to ensure the government does not endorse any specific religion. The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Children playing and singing music with a religious tone does not count as an endorsement of a specific religion.

Second, just as religion is part of history, religious music is an important part of music history and education. Just like Handel’s Messiah and O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, these pieces have significant places in music and children should not just learn their words and music, but their histories.

As a result of the over-zealous attempt to eliminate this important genre of music from music programs across the country, organizations such as The American Center for Law and Justice have provided various documentation to help protect music teachers when planning their lessons and their concerts. Most music teachers I know keep a letter similar to the one linked here to protect their music programs. I also know of some districts where a letter like this is on file in their board office.

The fact that this needs to happen at all is amazing to me. When I first heard of issues such as these, it was in the South Orange/Maplewood, NJ School District. Since then, other towns have attempted to follow suit. Most have thankfully have lost. I remember a number of years ago when my husband was at doctor’s office he was asking him about his upcoming concert. He began to explain the situation just as many other teachers do, that he needs to produce his planned concert repertoire for approval. The doctor’s response? “That’s ridiculous. I was the little drummer boy for years in school and I wasn’t scarred for life.” This was in reference to his Jewish heritage. It made me laugh considering I had just recently read an article about how a Jewish man now in his 30’s said as a child he was incredibly uncomfortable with his experience as the little drummer boy as a child.

At the end of the day, all the festivities related to Christmas and Hanukkah should be celebrated as they have for generations. It is not an endorsement of a religion; it is an endorsement of valuing the importance of music education.

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