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Educators, parents debate importance of music instruction

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Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013 11:30 am

Music flourished in the Cabrillo Unified School District before Proposition 13 slashed arts budgets in the late 1970s. More recent budget cuts have also taken a toll. But on Thursday evening, more than 30 CUSD principals, music teachers and parents held a “music summit” to discuss bringing back the music.

“This is really something I’ve tried to build energy around,” said Assistant Superintendent Elizabeth Schuck who served as moderator.

Kimberly Hines, president of Friends of Cougars in Concert, cited how youth benefit from the focus required to play music. As evidence, she cited her own family.

At the Heritage Festival in Anaheim in May, Half Moon Bay High School’s jazz band won first place in its division, chorale and wind ensembles took second place in their divisions and Maestro Awards went to Half Moon Bay High’s Haiyang Kehoe and Antony Contreras.

“There is value in playing in ensembles,” Hines said. “It’s a team sport.”

The principals of El Granada, Hatch, Farallone View and Kings Mountain elementary and Cunha Intermediate schools all estimated a half-hour, two or three times a week, as ideal for music classes. (Hatch currently offers instruction twice a week.) Cunha Principal Lalo Lopez described a new mariachi group he is leading to bridge cultures on the Coastside.

Half Moon Bay High music teacher John Evans, citing a dearth of music at the high school in the late 1980s, pointed out a decline in incoming freshman music students. “We won’t have music at that rate,” he said. “And don’t kid yourself it can’t happen again.”

Attendees called for districtwide music standards, music education for younger students and for parents to learn the benefits, and collaboration with the community and funding sources.

“We can’t accept that (music) isn’t as great a priority as core subjects,” said parent Liam Durkee.

Schuck identified a Friends-funded “Bridge” section planned for next year, in which Evans would visit Cunha, and the middle school’s music teacher Maria Portello-Swagel would visit the elementary schools to teach music. She also outlined her goal of instruments and instruction for the district’s 240 fifth-graders, to build a feeder pool for high school music. The district is now soliciting donations of instruments, instead of the $36,000 to rent and $72,000 needed to buy them.

To donate, contact Schuck at 712-7107 or schucke@cabrillo.k12.ca.us.

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