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Crowd turns out to support elementary music

February 27, 1998

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer

A campaign to return instrumental music to Washington County elementary schools gained momentum Thursday night when about 150 people attended a public hearing to show support for the proposal.

Washington County Board of Education President Robert L. Kline said he had never seen so many people at a school budget hearing.

"It makes you feel good," Kline said.

Many at the hearing wore tiny yellow ribbons pinned to their clothing to demonstrate support for the return of elementary music.

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Three of the five school board members - Kline, Vice President B. Marie Byers and Andrew Humphreys - said they would try to find a way to add elementary instrumental music to the $108 million budget proposed by Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr.

Board member Ed Hayes said the board would discuss the matter today. Board member Doris Nipps was not available for comment after the hearing.

"It was an elitist move to take it out," said Byers, who voted to keep the program when the board eliminated it in 1995.

At the time, two board members said if children wanted to learn music, they should get private lessons, Byers said.

It was standing room only in the Board of Education auditorium as parents, students and teachers took turns at the podium to make their arguments for returning instrumental music to elementary schools.

They repeated statistics they have presented at past board meetings which they say show a link between music courses and improvements in test scores.

Several current and former students who were taught music in elementary school before it was eliminated told the board about the opportunities they have enjoyed because of that education.

Hagerstown attorney Kirk C. Downey said the music education he received in local schools paved the way for him to play in the jazz ensemble and marching band at Duke University.

Cindy Ecton said she believes the music education her son received in local schools helped him build a successful career.

Terry Hepburn told the board about the numerous music awards his daughter has received since learning music in local schools. Now the Hancock Middle-Senior High School senior has won a music scholarship to Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y., Hepburn said.

"I'm concerned we do not give enough credit for the career track that this is," said Denny Fraley, member of Local 770 of the American Federation of Musicians.

"These are the tools for success in life," said Joe Stouffer of the Alsatia Club, which runs the annual Mummers' Parade in Hagerstown.

The Washington County Alliance for Elementary Instrumental Music, which has led the effort to return music to elementary schools, has asked the school board to set aside $225,000 to hire eight teachers to teach music.

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