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Music programs strong in area schools

Friday, February 8, 2008

Northview High School trombone player Michael King leads a row of trombonists during a recent concert band practice. Lori Combs Photo.
A person can kick back on the couch for an evening of television and not help but see commercials regarding the continuing absence of the arts in schools.

Several school corporations across the nation are cutting these programs, whether it be music, art or choral.

Money crunches appear to be a major problem and the arts are typically the first areas in schools to be cut.

What about Clay Community Schools?

According to Northview High School band director Bob Medworth, musical programs in the Midwest are doing much better than in other areas across the nation.

"In the Midwest, at least, programs that are losing steam are usually losing steam due to weak leadership," Medworth said via e-mail interview. "We have not seen corporation-wide music cuts to much extent yet here in the Midwest. I know in some areas, on the east and west coast, that has happened."

Clay City band director Mark Ziegler is in his first year with the program. However, since arriving in the county, he said he has seen how strong residents feel about the arts.

"We try to get out in the community as much as possible so people see how important the arts are," Ziegler said.

Medworth said the program has seen a slight drop in student interest in recent years. He attributed that drop to costs and student requirements for graduation.

"There has been a slight drop the past few years and I think most of that is attributed to increased graduation requirements," Medworth. "I think the economy is also part of it."

Medworth said things might be different if the corporation changed its daily schedule. CCS currently employs a six-period day.

Ziegler said he previously taught in the Cincinnati area and did not see a decline in interest in the arts their either.

"I haven't seen a decline in the arts at all," he said.

Medworth said in recent years, the program has not seen an increase in budget, giving reason for concern.

"Our budget has not really increased in the past 15 years and you know the price of everything has increased dramatically in that same time frame," he said. "So to be honest, if you look at it from that perspective, we have lost some funding.

"New tubas, for instance, cost almost $4,000 each right now and every 7-8 years, we need to buy six or seven. We also look to the school to provide large percussion instruments and other items such as concert euphoniums, etc. Those items also need annual repairs and maintenance and that comes out of our school budget."

Medworth said band boosters help quite a bit with funding the program.

"We have to charge admission to some of our events and rely on the band boosters to pay for our music," he said. "Special arrangements for marching and the copyright permission can easily cost into the thousands each year."

Medworth said recruiting students at the lower elementary levels is important and the program does that.

"I believe kids take an interest in our programs because tooting a horn or spinning a flag looks like fun and a neat activity," Medworth said, adding that younger children are probably not aware of the program's rich history.

He said at one time, a Jazz Tour took place where NHS band students would tour various elementary schools countywide. However, the event was "curtailed" according to Medworth, due to the corporation's low standardized test scores.

Medworth added the arts are an integral part of a student's education and that, to the best of his knowledge, there has been no discussion of cutting arts programs at CCS.

"The arts are as important as any other subject if we are to develop well-rounded citizens and continue to have a society and culture that values the 'whole person,'" he said. "Most everyone is attracted to one of the arts, even if it only means enjoying music on the radio.

"But it is our job to tap into this and give students the tools and experiences that will contribute to an improved quality of life as adults."

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I would hate to see the band and color guard leave the schoos in Clay County. It was such a educating and self-esteem building time during those four years. I am glad to see Bob Medworth still around

-- Posted by bnett on Sat, Feb 9, 2008, at 6:22 PM

I hope that parents know they have to step up to keep these programs going. The band and guard are such positive things for kids. The thought of loosing them makes me a bit ill!

-- Posted by madmom61 on Mon, Feb 11, 2008, at 8:13 AM

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