Bits and Pieces

Bits and Pieces

Sarah Zaslaw

School Music Starts Back Up, But Starting When?

By Sarah ZaslawPosted September 11, 2012 9:36am (EDT)
Does your elementary school have an orchestra?

Does your elementary school have an orchestra?


One thing I love about the back-to-school season is seeing kids with their instrument cases. Especially the newbies. Beginning band and orchestra members may not even be able to produce a sound on the contraptions they’re lugging yet. But they’ve seen the instruments demonstrated and they’ve picked the one that speaks to them: saxophone, violin.

The adults in their lives have scrambled to find the gear. Emails fly. "Does anyone have a used trumpet they’re ready to part with?" "Anyone know where we can rent a half-size cello?"

Finally equipped, the children are off on the adventure. Learning what it takes to play even the simplest tune; practicing, rehearsing, listening, following; being part of a greater whole.

And the teachers—those upbeat, underpaid, overworked music educators—they smile and cheer them all on. Each year, they get a new batch of squeaky, squawky beginners to encourage. Sometimes I don’t know how their ears can take it, honestly. But they’re not in it for perfection. It’s about the learning, and the striving, and the appreciating. Got to start somewhere, right? That’s education for you. All hail the music teachers.

Now, I write all this picturing the public school in my neighborhood. Our school is lucky to have an instrumental program starting in third grade. Other elementary schools nearby begin orchestra and band in fourth grade instead, or in fifth grade, or only offer them as an after-school activity for an extra charge. It’s not consistent. In some areas, parents raise money themselves to make up for budget cuts. And unfortunately, some schools have no elementary instrumental programs at all.

So I’m curious:

How about your part of Georgia? Does your school have a string program? A band? Starting in what grade?

Please leave a comment and let us know!

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