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YONKERS N.Y. - I was both pleased and saddened to read the recent article, “Musical Group Black Violin Performs At Yonkers School” (Dec 4, 2012). Exposure to the arts is crucial to developing a creative workforce for the 21st Century. Yet, as we see in Yonkers, the arts have been cut so that little of this joyful subject reaches the students anymore.
Key in the article, the performers acknowledge that they were FIRST classically trained. They learned the basic language of reading music and correctly playing their instruments and THEN took it to a higher level.That kind of learning can only take place with a sequential curriculum in the arts, which builds skills and knowledge in every student.
Saunders is a terrific school with a dedicated and caring staff. I had the privilege of developing a thriving band program at the school, from 1998-2004. Students in the program got to experience music through actual performance, and the band program was recognized beyond Yonkers’ borders. There were classical and pops concerts, a jazz band, and chamber groups that performed in all the classrooms during holiday season.The students were even invited to perform at the state capitol, and got to tour the legislative chambers. They loved it!
These experiences engage students and bring joy to learning. Yet, it is music and art that are too often the first to go, depriving kids the opportunity to “dream big.” The arts are not a frill, they must be recognized as a birthright as well as a pathway to a brighter future.
Len Martello is a retired music teacher and arts administrator who taught at Saunders Trades & Technical High School .