Doug Toppin's Blog

My thoughts on technology and other stuff

School Funding Cutbacks and Music Programs

I recently started listening to The Other Side Of The Bell – A Trumpet Podcast and have found it both informative and thought provoking. Episode #23 is with Bobby Burns Jr from Earth, Wind & Fire and caused me to think about school budgets and cutbacks in music programs. I am convinced that in most cases students are significantly affected by junior and high school music programs primarily because of the amount of time that they spend with their directors compared to other classes.

Academic classes tend to be an hour perhaps 3 days a week where band classes, practices and performances can add up to many more hours as well as being over a period of several years. I think that this has a greater impact on a young person as well as forming longer lasting bonds with other band members. In my case I keep in contact with my friends from those days. The shared experience gives a student the opportunity to get to know people better as well as just having old memories to talk about years later. There are very few similar memories from my academic classes. The director can also have a profound influence on the students in terms of setting an example and building character. In my case I was fortunate in having Mr Scott Callaway as my band director at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City NC. He never failed to set an example and pass along life lessons that I still clearly remember and try to follow. With academic class teachers I am not sure that you would get that much insight into their lives beyond the subject.

When cutbacks in school funding occur the music programs tend to suffer the most which I think has unfortunate side effects that may not be apparent until years later. In fact, the effect on students might never be observable because it cannot be measured because of nothing to compare to other than eventual societal change after it is far too late to become aware of the loss.

Bobby Burns, in the podcast episode, makes it clear that several of his directors and music mentors had a significant impact on his life at the time and had they not been there his life may have taken a different direction.

The most difficult aspect of budget and education decisions are what benefits the student most either in life or in skills preparation for a future job. I do not know the answer I only know that music training and experiences early in life will stay with you for life. I do not know how to quantify that in terms of a benefit to the individual and society in general.

If you are interested in the trumpet or music education and learning in general I do recommend the podcast.

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