The Simpson Street Free Press Sounds Off On Arts Education

The current issue of The Simpson Street Free Press includes pieces by both Jazmin Jackson and Andrea Gilmore on the importance of arts education. This issue also has a letter to the editor from School Board member Johnny Winston, Jr. on the arts funding issues facing the District.

Participating in Arts Promotes Achievement and Academic Success
by Jazmin Jackson, age 15
When I was four years old, my mother took me to watch my older sister perform in a ballet. Since then, I knew I wanted to take dance lessons and perform like her. I’m fortunate to have hard-working parents who help pay for expensive classes. But many parents are not able to afford the cost of putting their kids into special programs like dance lessons. So what do those kids do?
Their best option is participating in the school art programs.
Music classes, show choir, theater, ceramics, painting, strings, band—I could go on and on. These are just a few of the great programs that our schools offer. These are also the programs that often face cuts from school budgets—especially these days.
Many people don’t realize the importance of these programs. The arts allow kids to learn many important life skills that they will use throughout their lives—skills for interviewing for a job, getting into college, and maturing into a responsible adult.
As a dancer, I must arrive on time and commit to attending every class and every rehearsal. Our teachers are constantly stressing how we have to be able to adapt quickly and step in for someone if they are sick or injured. If I want to get a good part, I have to work to the best of my ability. The lessons I learn I will use for the rest of my life.
Children involved in the arts are constantly developing good work habits that build strong character. Kids involved in arts and music not only benefit now, but they broaden their horizons for the future. They explore talents that they may wish to pursue later in life.
For a long time, sports have been an all-around-favorite school activity. Most teens are involved in some type of club having to do with a sport. And no matter how much we complain about running in 80-degree weather, gym class will continue to be mandatory. We all understand the importance of physical health.
Isn’t just as important to continue to hold music classes during the school day? Apparently it was to the parents of Sherman Middle School students.
In a recent letter to school board members, the principal at Sherman, Ann Yehle, proposed a plan to move music programs to after hours. Then, at a school board meeting, parents voiced strong disagreement about moving band and orchestra classes to the end of the school day. Superintendent Art Rainwater quickly stated, “music will be offered during the regular school day.”
However, Sherman plans to proceed in testing its after-school proposal.
I think it’s very important that all kids have the opportunity to participate in an arts program. Not all students are interested in sports. Arts and music programs are extremely important because they allow kids to express themselves and participate in something they enjoy doing.
But what’s even more important is that these kinds of programs are really academic programs. Andrea Gilmore, our senior teen editor, has made this point around our newsroom often in the past few months. Her editorials have been printed in this paper and in the Wisconsin State Journal. I tend to agree with Andy. Skills learned in art or music classes are easily transferred to math or science or English class.
Creating artwork, making music, or using the imagination allows kids to exercise their minds and explore their talents. Children participating in art or music better themselves by learning positive lifelong habits important academic skills.
Elementary Strings Should Be Part of Madison’s Core Curriculum

An Editorial
by Andrea Gilmore, age 18
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 more than $350 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.
One reason elementary strings programs are crucial to schools is that 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 elementary strings 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 University of Wisconsin 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.
A young person learning how to play music, who can put a price on that? School Board, please make your cuts elsewhere.
[Sources: Ruth Robarts of the Madison School Board; The Capital Times]
Andrea Gilmore is a senior at Madison Memorial High School and the Science Editor for the Simpson Street Free Press. She will attend UW-Madison this fall.