I recently read an article that got me thinking about my elementary, junior high, and high school days. An article in the Los Angeles Times reported on a rash of (many instances of something happening in a short period of time) thefts of tubas from schools in L.A. The article attributes (gives as the reason for) the thefts to the growth in popularity of banda music in Southern California, a type of traditional Mexican music using brass instruments (musical instruments often made of brass and uses the air from your mouth and body to make music). Unfortunately, the stolen instruments can be sold for a lot of money on the black market (the illegal buying and selling of things).
I was very sad to read this article because I remember how much the school music program meant to me when I was growing up in Arizona. In our school district (group of schools under the same administration) in Tucson, there was a school music program in elementary school, junior high, and high school. Since every state and school district is different, it’s hard to make generalizations about what school music programs are like, so I’ll just talk about my own experience.
Our school music program was not an after-school program, but a part of the regular school day. For one hour a day (or two or three hours a week in elementary school), students whose parents allowed them to participate in the program met with the music teacher. Our orchestra (group of musicians playing together) teacher taught us to play our instruments and conducted (led a group of musicians, usually standing in front of the group) us all to play together. Students could bring their own instruments from home or they could borrow a school instrument for the year. This way, students whose parents could not or did not want to buy instruments could still participate.
Starting in the fifth grade (age 10), I played the violin, a beautiful instrument in skilled (with ability) hands, but in mine, an instrument of torture. Still (even so; despite this), I enjoyed learning to play and most of all, I enjoyed being with other students out of the traditional classroom. Our orchestra, like many school orchestras, played concerts for the school and also played in the community at special events, such as holiday festivals and celebrations. As a group, we also traveled to play in other cities when we could raise (earn; collect) enough money.
Money to pay for the school instruments, our teacher (shared with other schools), and other classroom resources were paid for by the school. Everything else was paid for by parents or, more often, through fundraising. It is very common for students in school music, athletic, drama (theater), or other activities to have school fundraisers. We had car washes: We would convince a nearby gas station to let us wash cars for a day or for the weekend on their premises (at their location) to earn money. We sold candy: We sold candy to other students, our friends, and went door-to-door (from one house to another) to sell to neighbors. We sold lottery tickets: These were tickets, usually for $1, for a chance to win a prize (something valuable you can win) that someone — a parent or someone in the community — had donated (given without receiving money). I cannot tell you how many things we did or sold to earn money. But for me, it was all part of the fun of being part of this group.
To be honest, our school orchestra was never very good. With the exception of one or two really gifted (talented) students who went on to study music, we just bumbled through (did without any skill) the music. (Some who are less charitable (kind and giving) would say we murdered (killed) the music.) But for me, and I imagine for a lot of students, it was good experience and it exposed us (gave us access) to music and instruments we would never have played otherwise. Sadly, with poor economic times, many schools have or will need to eliminate (remove) their school music programs. This is especially sad in neighborhoods where buying musical instruments and paying for private music lessons is beyond the means of (more money than can be paid by) the parents.
Are there school music programs where you live, and do students participate in fundraisers for music or other activities?
Photo Credit: Violin from Wikipedia