This letter is in response to comments made at the recent school budget deliberative session held at the Winchester School on Feb 4.
Toward the end of the meeting resident Kevin Whippie suggested that, in the future, we look at the way our school’s music program is currently being administered. He noted that with only one staff member, it is impossible to offer general music classes to all grades and also offer instrumental and choral programs similar to those we have had in the past. He cited the many benefits of such programs on academic skills, as well as preparing students for high school and ultimately for life. He compared music to sports, stating that like our athletes, without adequate time for instruction and practice, students are not able to achieve success.
Winchester School Board Chairman Rick Horton responded that he agreed with Mr. Whippie, but reminded him that our athletic teams meet after school. He claimed that there is simply not enough time in the school day to increase the music program.
Then why is it that Winchester was able to fit instrumental and choral programs into the school schedule for scores of years in the past, as have schools across the nation? Perhaps it was because the administration and townspeople recognized that music and the fine arts have been proven to strengthen a student’s math, reading, critical thinking and verbal skills. They can improve motivation, concentration, confidence and teamwork.
Students involved in music tend to score higher on standardized tests and have less behavior issues. Perhaps Winchester taxpayers recognized that vocal and instrumental programs not only help talented children to blossom and thrive, but they also bring pride to the community.
As for comparing music to sports, I understand that there are some substantial increases in the sports lines of the 2016 budget, but none for music. I fully support a sports program and I am not suggesting that cuts be made here. Athletic activities help to develop teamwork, leadership skills, and physical fitness.
In comparing cost-to-student benefit, however, music programs that are part of the regular school day can potentially reach far more students for a longer period of time than the handful that participate on an athletic team for a sports season or two. In Winchester’s case, just one additional half-time teacher could have a huge impact on rebuilding the music program.
Several years ago I was part of the music education team in Winchester at a time when we proudly supported 2.5 music teachers and had hundreds of students in our program. We featured concert bands, marching bands, a jazz band and choruses at the elementary, middle school and high school levels. We had students auditioning and qualifying for All State and All New England music festivals, and some who even went on to major in music in college. Even after the closing of Thayer High School, we maintained two music teachers and boasted an outstanding music program until cuts were made.
I agree with Kevin Whippie. It is time to bring a quality music program back to Winchester.
Please vote “NO” on the proposed school budget as the default budget is better equipped to provide the funding needed to begin to strengthen our music program. Also, please share your personal support of the music program with members of the Winchester School Board.