Kudos to band students at ThunderRidge High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. They’re members of SAM (Students for the Advancement of Music), and they’re providing an interim solution to budget cuts that have forced the elimination of music in the Douglas County elementary schools. Each Wednesday at 7:15 am, fifth and sixth graders from the area are dropped off by their parents for a before-school, hour-long music lesson taught by SAM members. The lessons are free, as compared to fee-based, after school music programs. Even instruments are provided as needed, for a small rental charge that allows the kids and their parents to buy in to what the high school students are offering.
The members of SAM are using the experience of setting up and running the program as well as teaching music to the children, to fulfill the required senior project requirement for graduation. More importantly, they recognize that without music as part of the curriculum, kids miss out on skillsets, social connections, cultural understanding, and so many aesthetic experiences that the arts provide. They believe that when music is only available to children on a “pay to play” basis, the divide that’s created has long-term repercussions not only for students but for society as a whole. The ThunderRidge SAM students are also aware that when music is not a part of the K-5 curriculum, fewer and fewer students are likely go on in music on the middle and high school levels as well as beyond.
Our hats are off to the ThunderRidge SAM students, to their band director, Mike Snell, and to their principal Carol Jennings, for providing this successful strategy to keep fifth and sixth graders involved in music. By the same token we are deeply concerned that Douglas County (like many others across the country) has not kept music as a priority in the curriculum. We urge you to pay attention to how your state and local community are viewing the role of music in the schools. And we hope you’ll take a stand if you see that music is on the chopping block.
Let us know of other great stories about how high school students are working to make a difference and we’ll help get the word out!