To The Daily Sun,
I am an alumnus of Laconia High School, and proud to say I was a member of the band from 2004 through 2008. I have so many positive things to say about the music program that I was involved in that I honestly don't know where to begin, and I know I'm not alone in this sentiment.
My experience in band inspired me to become a music teacher myself. This is why I was so dismayed to learn that the performing arts programs in SAU 30 were being effectively eliminated.
I understand that the proposal as it currently stands would move band after school, and reduce chorus to a semester course, following a decision to eliminate band at the elementary level. These decisions effectively destroy the performing arts programs in the district.
The most immediate implication of moving band after school is the fact many students will no longer be able to participate in the program. Many students in the band are also student athletes. I was one of these kids in high school, and my life, as well as the lives of many young Laconians before me and since have been greatly enriched by participating in both athletics and the arts.
If band was moved after school, dozens of students are now forced to make a lose-lose choice, and are denied the opportunities that come with being in band or up to three sports teams. That is incredibly unfair to the students. On top of that, some high school students work after school, and the unfortunate truth is, some families need their teens to work to make ends meet. That's another group of students who face a lose-lose decision.
In addition to decreased participation, moving band after school drastically limits how much content can be covered and the quality of the program. When I was in the band, we consistently earned top ratings at our annual large group competitions, a fact we took great pride in. With our consistent excellent performances at this competition, we earned the right to represent the city of Laconia at music festivals in Toronto my sophomore year, and Orlando my senior year.
Putting performances of this level takes a significant amount of time. In addition to all the class time, we put in dozens of after school rehearsals every year, more during a festival year. We needed every minute of that time to put on the quality of performances we did.
On top of that, if the proposal moves forward, I can't see a scenario where jazz band and pep band aren't lost. This is another source of pride for the kids. The pep band helps create a great home court advantage for our student athletes. Jazz band help me discover what would become a life long passion for jazz music, which would lead to me being the selected to Jazz All-State my senior year, studying jazz at Plymouth State University, and various professional playing opportunities which have become part of my career.
Without these opportunities, who knows what kind of local talent will no longer get a chance to shine.
As for the chorus becoming a half-year class, having the program basically start over every semester slows progress for returning students, limiting the quality of the program. The other alternative is the program follows it's standard year round curriculum, and students who enter midway through the year are very far behind, and lack the skills necessary to perform selected repertoire, leading to them becoming frustrated and quitting or worse.
The performing arts are extremely valuable to the Laconia community. When I was in school, some of my peers told me music was the only reason they came to school. As a music teacher, I have a few students like this, and from what I've seen of Facebook, this is still the case in Laconia. Many kids, learn valuable life skills including but not limited to: discipline, hard work, perseverance, teamwork, and listening.
I personally got a lot leadership opportunities that I wouldn't have gotten elsewhere in high school. Many kids, including this year's band heading off to Disney world soon, got to experience trips that some of them may never would've had the opportunity to make otherwise. The numbers don't lie: kids involved in music programs have higher test scores than their peer who aren't.
At my school, when we reviewed our NWEA MAPS data, students involved in the music program showed a noticeable improvement in their scores over the course of their first year of participation. Cross-circular links that are naturally in the music curriculum can help improve student understanding of other subjects. These are among the many reasons Congress identified music as a core subject under NCLB and now the Every Student Succeeds Act.
From what I have read in The Laconia Daily Sun, money is apparently very tight right now. The tax cap has forced you to take a meat cleaver to the budget, but the music programs in the Laconia are well worth the investment. I strongly encourage you to reconsider the proposal to move band after school, make chorus a semester class, and the recent decision to remove elementary band from the school day.