"The arts humanize the curriculum while affirming the interconnectedness of all forms of knowing. They are a powerful means to improve general education." -Charles Fowler
This year's concert takes on a special significance with the looming potential of devastating cuts to arts programs across the district and begs the opportunity to reflect on the significance that the arts play in comprehensive educational process. In many cases, and for many students, it is the arts that tie it all together.
"The arts are the reason that some students enjoy going to school everyday." comments visual arts teacher Danielle De Bover. "Each adolescent is discovering his/her own drive, whether it is sports, auto shop, science, ASB leadership, or the arts. If we limit access to these essentials in high school, then we limit student self-discovery, confidence, knowledge, creativity, and aspirations. Students will be less likely to succeed and less prepared to function in a highly competitive, diverse, and fast changing society. It is all interconnected."
In recent years, PUSD has had the good fortune to hire a number of bright young teachers in music, visual arts and drama. Their enthusiasm has benefited their students in the classrooms and brought them students out into the public eye. Tanner Johns had his band play on a trailer in the Fair Parade. Danielle De Boever coordinated an exhibition of student artwork, complete with an opening reception, to the walls of a local restaurant. Drama and music performing groups make annual appearances at Words & Music in Chester. Similar efforts take place in all of our communities.
These new teachers are mentored by their more experienced counterparts at other school sites with the synergy of these complimentary relationships ultimately provided to their students.
Veteran music educators speak to the importance of continuity and building and maintaining programs in each community. "Tanner (Johns) and Austin (King) should be able to stay with the programs they have spent the last few years developing," offers Gary Klivans (Portola Music Teacher). "In music, we have the same basic students from 4th grade through high school so it's not the same as other subjects in that respect."
Jim Norman (Greenville Music Teacher) adds, "two less-senior music teachers received lay-off notices, thus causing a situation where either of them could up and leave and take another job elsewhere as a matter of survival, leaving the relationships and programs behind that they have worked hard to build."
Reflecting on his time as a music educator, Norman adds. "PUSD has a good track record in supporting music. During the last crisis (back in 92 or 93), no music positions were reduced. In too many districts, music has been among the first to go, so in that respect we have been treated better than most, which is in part due to this being a UNIFIED school district."
In this current crisis… "Emotions are running high… The very essence of what constitutes an education is being scrutinized."
"At a recent school board meeting, Austin Hagwood gave an eloquent statement emphasizing the importance of personal contact with quality teachers in his preparation for post-high school education at the university level." His words had particular significance in this increasingly technological age.
"…learning to play the clarinet or the piano isn't a heck-of-a-lot different today than it was during the time of Bach, Mozart and Gesualdo (musicologist joke). So, technology may be great, but some guy on a IPad in another time zone can't stand there and take you through the process of how to make a sound on a brass instrument. That takes a real person, and I am honored to part of a group of real people like the music teachers in PUSD."
New young teachers split their time between school sites and across grades. Visual arts teacher Anajnelle Weiher splits her time between Chester and Greenville. Danielle DeBoever spend her days in both Portola and Quincy Schools.
Music teachers span grades 4 to 12, and take their students from the rudimentary steps in learning an instrument trough eight years of developing proficiency. That skill building process, and the hard work of their dedicated music instructors, is what we celebrate at this county High School Jazz Night.
Admission to the concert is free. Donation will be accepted though, and those funds will help to support the valiant efforts of our PUSD music teachers.
On your way to the concert at the Town Hall Theatre make time to stop at Pangaea Café and Pub to take a look at the visual arts exhibition by Danielle DeBoevers's Portola and Quincy students. It might also be a good idea to write you school board to let them know just how important a role the arts play in building a well balanced education, especially in this difficult economy and in these challenging times.
"The arts teach so much… They teach students that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives. One large lesson is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world. The arts enable us to have experiences we can receive from no other source and through such experiences, discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling."
Jeffrey T. Schnapp, director of the Stanford Humanities Lab at Stanford University, from an article titled Art in Schools Inspires Tomorrow's Creative Thinkers. (Edutopia Magazine, February 2009).