Districts Find Creative Ways to Keep Music Programs; the Bands Play on in Western Pennsylvania Public Schools despite Tighter Budgets and Lackluster State Funding. [Derived Headline]

By Weigand, Jodi | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2016 | Go to article overview

Districts Find Creative Ways to Keep Music Programs; the Bands Play on in Western Pennsylvania Public Schools despite Tighter Budgets and Lackluster State Funding. [Derived Headline]


Weigand, Jodi, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The bands play on in Western Pennsylvania public schools despite tighter budgets and lackluster state funding.

School districts have taken cost-saving measures such as merging arts courses and finding creative ways to make ends meet, but music programs -- among the most popular in many districts -- have remained relatively unscathed by budget cuts.

Music educators say community support and booster groups play a major role in sustaining quality music programs.

"People in the community are able to step back and see the value of these programs because they see the changes in the students," said Mark Despotakis, chair of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association's Advancement of Music Education Council.

"There has been this push from administrators to do everything they can to not make those cuts, because they're hearing those arguments that what we're doing in music is educating the whole child," Despotakis said.

Nationwide, schools as a whole have not cut music education. In some categories, there's been an uptick.

- The number of districts offering music education has remained steady, according to a National Center for Education Statistics report released in 2012, the most recent data available. About 91 percent of American schools offered music education from the 1999- 2000 school year to 2009-10.

- The percentage of schools requiring an arts course for graduation increased during that time.

- The number of schools that sponsored field trips, had dedicated rooms for music education, and elementary-level teachers who taught music full time also increased.

Kymberly Cruz, senior program officer for arts education in Pittsburgh Public Schools, said the district last cut arts programming in 2011-12, when it scaled back on private vocal and instrumental lessons at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts magnet school. That year's budget required schools to use discretionary funding to provide arts and music education more than once a week.

Cruz said the district has begun an initiative to revitalize its instrumental music program by ensuring there is an instrumental music specialist in elementary and middle schools and offering a music exploration course in third grade.

"They'll be able to experience instruments in every family throughout the school year, and they'll be able to make a good decision if they want to continue to learn an instrument," she said. …

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