Andrea Gilmore (This opinion piece was published in the Wisconsin State Journal):
I am lucky. I have been playing the violin since I was in the fourth grade. I was exposed to music at an early age and music has helped me gain skills that have enhanced my school career. Through music, I learned self-confidence, self-discipline, time management, cooperation and study skills.
Unfortunately, many young people may not have the opportunity I had. The elementary strings program costs only $500,000 in a budget of about $300 million. School board members recently decided to keep the elementary strings program next year in some form, while cutting approximately $500,000 overall out of the music-education programs.
Elementary strings programs are essential to the development of our community’s young people and should be supported in all Madison schools. Elementary strings programs are crucial to schools because music programs help close the minority student achievement gap. Music programs, when incorporated in the academic curriculum, increase academic achievement of minority and low-income students.
Eliminating programs like this only adds to the widening differences among students that is often based on family income. The opportunity to play in an orchestra or to receive music education should not be based on whether parents can afford private lessons. If school districts eliminate music programs, students from low-income families will be adversely affected.
According to UW music professor Richard Davis, “underprivileged children will suffer the most. It’s another way of letting those who can afford it get the opportunities. The fear is that you’re going to have a very one-sided, warped community, where one world will have all of the exposure and sophistication, and the other world won’t.”
Music and fine arts should be part of the core curriculum in our schools. I attribute much of my success in school, and in life, to my experience with music. I sincerely hope every fourth grader in Madison has this important opportunity. Who can put a price on a young person learning how to play music? The Madison School Board should make cuts elsewhere.