Music programs popular but not cheap
The turnout at the 87th Colorado West Invitational Music Performance Festival is indicative of how popular music programs are on the Western Slope and why area music directors predict local fine arts programming isn’t going anywhere.
More than 200 student ensembles from 43 middle schools and high schools swarmed Grand Junction on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to show off their musical prowess at the state’s largest band, choir and orchestra competition.
Even though sports fees are likely to increase next year in School District 51 and increases in music fees are “on the table,” Fruita Monument High School Band Director Ryan Crabtree said he doesn’t believe he will see any students leave the programs they love.
If fees become too much for some students, he said assistance from high school band and music boosters clubs and the district’s music departments should be able to help students afford to stay in music ensembles.
“Our philosophy is we won’t let finances stop students from participating,” Crabtree said.
On top of fees, the cost to families of renting instruments can be a burden in tough economic times, Redlands Middle School orchestra and choir teacher Scott Betts said. His school has many of the larger instruments on hand and some smaller instruments to help make sure lower-income students who want an instrument have one to use at school.Budget cuts have made it harder to purchase music and repair instruments, Betts said. But few other changes have been made.
“We haven’t been threatened with taking (music programming) out” of the schools, he said.
Tambyr Reed, choir director at Delta High School, said Saturday her district hasn’t threatened to take away music either, but it has consolidated some music teaching positions by having one teacher each teach both band and choir at schools in Paonia, Hotchkiss and Cedaredge.
“Usually fine arts programs are the first to go on the budget because there isn’t state testing for it,” Reed said. “But our administration understands its importance. It’s where they get social experiences. Some students come to school primarily for extracurriculars.”
Students also learn a little bit of math, history and responsibility from music, according to Central High School Jazz Choir Director Stan Scott. Scott said he has tried to help students out during the rough economy by keeping their uniforms the same for four years.
There is also less money in district coffers and parents’ pockets for travel, as evidenced by two-thirds of the festival’s participants hailing from the Western Slope, even though the competition was open to schools across Colorado and Eastern Utah.
“Last year we traveled to California, and it was hard to get kids to go,” Scott said.
Grand Junction High School Band Director Isaac Lavadie said District 51 is one of the rare districts during lean times to continue to offer general music programming in elementary school and a variety of music groups in middle and high school. He said he hopes the district continues to offer music at all levels.
“Without K–5 (music), they miss out quite a bit. It would be like starting math in sixth grade,” he said.