Budget cutting: follow-up to Joshua Bell post

I have just learned from another blog that the Monroe County school district (Bloomington, Indiana) has decided to eliminate the string program. Joshua Bell started playing violin in that program. Could one of the 150 elementary school students who can no longer learn string instruments in that school system have become as renowned an artist? No one will ever know, but it is certain that the move will deprive all of those children of the opportunity to learn to love great music by playing it, not to mention a possibility of a satisfying career (or at least life-long hobby) in music.

Elementary school music programs feed into junior high or middle school programs, which likewise feed high school programs. Bloomington, of course, is no ordinary city. It probably has more excellent music opportunities per capita than anywhere else in the country. Therefore, in this case, the decision to cut the string program also hampers the future growth of the Hoosier Youth Philharmonic.

In junior high school and high school, music performance groups are much larger than most classes. If a school orchestra has 45 members (probably a conservative estimate), it will require at least two other classes or study halls to make room for all of those students if it, too, falls to the budget axe. Students in a music program generally have better grades and fewer disciplinary problems than the school population as a whole.

So let’s see, the district cut a music program, thus disrupting a social and perhaps professional outlet for students, the future health of school and community music programs for older children, and possibly the children’s academic and social development. And the savings? $20,000 a year. I sure hope that’s someone’s typo. Even at a savings of $200,000, the school system will probably have to pay a heavier price down the road than it proposes to save in the short term.

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