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Editorial - Some musical questions

March 02, 1998

In the last month, we've heard a great deal about the research on the beneficial effects of instrumental music instruction on elementary schoolchildren. Everything from hand-eye coordination to critical thinking to standardized test scores are reportedly enhanced. That makes a strong case for reinstating a program that was eliminated two years ago. But if it's going to be successful this time around, two things need to be dealt with, including:

- the scheduling issue. Before the program was eliminated, principals and some teachers complained it was tough to keep a class on track if some members were continually pulled out for practice and instruction during school hours.

With the state preparing to throw yet another layer of tests on top of what's already required, every moment of teaching time is precious. Yes, music students do tend to be top academic achievers, but we wonder what effect it has on a class to remove its best students from class discussions and other activities.

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- the hardware issue. In the school board's Coffee and Conversation session this past Saturday, Tina Younker, a member of the Alliance for Elementary Instrumental Music, said instruments would be provided by those parents who could afford them, or loaned by the Alliance.

How many tubas, trombones and drum sets are we talking about, and what sort of repair-and-maintenance contract would be needed to keep them in working order? And what type of fund-raisers would be needed to pay for that contract, for a policy to insure the instruments against loss or theft in the schools and to raise cash to replenish the stock when instruments are just plain worn out?

And finally, if the main objection to the return of this program is the time it takes from other subjects, is it time to consider lengthening the school day? These are all tough questions that should be answered before the school board reinstitutes this program. Even the most fervent advocates of instrumental music should be in favor of making sure that there are no sour notes when this program begins to perform again.

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