Speaking of Who Benefits, Pioneer has just won another award for their music program. I would love to see an expose of this program and who is benefitting. The orchestra is basically a public school forum for private music students. It has nothing to do with the school program that starts in 5th grade and doesn't teach enough for kids to suceed in high school. The teacher simply cherry picks the top students that have been privately studying music since a very young age, devotes all the resources to them, and literally leaves everyone else behind. The kids that can't play at a level well beyond high school are in a basic technique class where they can either accept their 2nd class status or quit. You never hear about them because they don't go anywhere beyond the school auditorium! The whole program is focused on winning and they are not about to let anyone in who can't do that.
I have mixed feelings about this comment.
On the one hand--point well taken. The top levels of the orchestra/band are very exclusive. At least one acquaintance has told me that the majority of the kids in it are taking lessons, outside of school, for at least an hour a week, from the very best teachers in town--no college music majors for them! I don't have personal experience of this because none of my kids has played past 9th grade (at least, not yet). But I believe the commenter when s/he says that many of the kids experience the lower levels of the orchestra/band as "second rate." And one of the reasons that I am happy about the presence of Skyline is that I believe this will make more room in those top bands (and Varsity athletic teams) for kids who are good, but not the very best.
On the other hand--this charge could be leveled not only at Pioneer but at other schools as well. They all use their music programs to attract students. I have seen articles about Huron, Ypsilanti, Lincoln, Willow Run, Community High, and even Stone School's music program. I think this is natural--although everyone thinks "basics" are important, it is the extras that draw people in to schools. And generally music is perceived as, and should be perceived as, value added.
And on the third hand (if I had one)--a friend of mine went, several years ago, to the NAACP annual dinner. She (a white woman, and a teacher) was seated at a table with several middle class African-American couples. The talk turned to school, and to the achievement gap. [And I would say that both my friend and I, as white women concerned with education, have been concerned with the achievement gap as a problem, but not as a problem that personally affected us. These families felt it affected them.] My friend reported to me later that the other parents were discussing their strategies for keeping their kids out of trouble and in with the top-performing kids. Universally, their favorite strategy--even for kids who weren't in advanced classes--was to keep their kids in the music program. So many of the advanced students are in Orchestra, Band, or Choir, that those classes end up driving a lot of class schedules. In effect: stick with Orchestra, and your kids end up being with hard-working students for the rest of the day.
Last, but not least--I really believe that when you learn music, you are also learning math (think rhythm, notes, spatial awareness) and arts (besides the beauty of music, it really is like learning another language). So I think it's important, despite the fact that my (older two) kids' interest in music peaked in 6th or 7th grade, and I want the schools to have good music programs.
Finally--I don't have much experience with the local music programs, and I would be interested in yours. Are they elite and snobby, or open? Does everyone benefit, or just a select few?