We were shocked to hear that the District 728 administration is recommending reducing the Elk River High School band director to a part-time position. Music and the arts are inherent to and are unquestionably fundamental to our district’s ability to successfully carry out its mission: to educate, inspire and empower all of our learners. A full-time band director at Elk River High School must be a priority if this district is going to be true to its mission statement.
Research has shown that music, in particular, fosters brain activity that impacts the ability to work with mathematics, languages, scientific inquiry and critical thinking. College-bound student leaders are almost always involved in music and the arts. This was our experience growing up and we believe this continues to be the case today.
So why is this district looking at radical cuts to a program that directly correlates with high student achievement? What happened to the commitment this district made to music and the arts about two years ago?
Both of us grew up in communities where the school music programs were valued and supported. Each high school had a full-time band director and choir director. Students received elective credit for concert band, symphony band, jazz band, marching band, choir, swing choir, etc. The directors gave private and group lessons. The schools’ music programs were a vital and vibrant part of our communities.
In contrast, in the Elk River area, we see commitments made and then broken by making cuts in music program offerings and staffing. It is shameful that in a high school with a student body of approximately 1,700 students that having one full-time band director is not a priority.
Even during difficult economic times, we should not be reducing opportunities for students in an area of education that has a proven track record of raising student achievement. We join many other parents and community members who believe that offering high quality music and arts education is a necessary use of our education dollars. This means, in part, having a full-time band director at Elk River High School.—Chris and Katie Johnson