Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Day the Music Died.

So that may be overly dramatic.  But that is exactly how I feel right now.  My daughter and son are coming home from church camp and I have to tell them that they are losing their beloved band director.  He has taken a job in a neighboring town.  A big gain for him, a big loss for the kids.  What's the big deal, you may ask.  It is a big deal.  From my perspective at least. And from the perspective of many other parents.  To me, Penns Valleys' Mr. L is reminiscent of Titusville's marching band director, Mr. A, from way back in the 70's.  A true director, a lover of music, a role model for kids. 

This is both of my kids' first year in marching band.  And I suppose, since we are newbies at the game, it doesn't really matter who leads the band.  But Mr. L is legendary.  I and my kids, knew of Mr. L early on.  He was the guy who always had a smile, always made a kid feel as if s/he had the potential of Louis Armstrong, always made a fledgling feel as if marching band was the place to be when one entered high school.  That's what I've heard anyway.  From my few interactions, I believe it is true. 

And losing Mr. L has brought up some other concerns about the value that is placed on the music department.  It is no secret that the arts are often the first areas to be cut.  Even before sports.  But to paraphrase a line from one of my favorite films, Mr. Holland's Opus, ''if we get rid of the Arts, what will the kids have to write about" or something like that.

I'm sad. And by the volume of emails being sent back and forth, I know that I am not the only parent feeling this way.  We felt safe with Mr. L and now, right before the start of the marching band season, we are unsure of what is going to happen.  We have some excellent music teachers in our district and I really hope that one of them is given the opportunity (if they so desire) to step into place.  But if not, I hope that the district is allowed to hire a qualified person from outside. 

We need our band, our directors, our choruses, our sports - they are every bit as important as reading, writing, arithmetic, and world languages.  School is not just about being able to perform proficiently on a standardized test.  Schools are where we build character, develop new hobbies, test new interests.  Marching band has been given a bad rap in many schools, but the Penns Valley marching band has seemed to me a band in which its members have pride. 

I hope there is another director out there who can join the ranks of the Mr. Ls and the Mr. As of the schools.  Someone who believes in the kids - the ones who enthusiastically jump into a new interest as well as the ones who are a little more reticent about playing an instrument. He or she has some pretty big shoes to fill.  But it can be done. 

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