Comment: I am a better student because of school music classes

A commentary by a Grade 10 music student at Oak Bay High School.

It has come to the attention of myself and many other students within the Greater Victoria school district that the proposed new budget could remove music classes (band, strings, choir and so on) from students below Grade 8.

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I am a student in the music program. I believe that it is a fundamental part of the school system.

My first argument: Numerous studies say music impacts learning and learning environments in positive ways. Mental health is an important issue impacting many young adults and early teenagers, nine- to 14-year-olds.

Music has been a proven source to help with ADHD, learning disorders, focus and low grades. Any Google search will give multiple reliable sources saying exactly this.

So by cutting music, not only would an opportunity to extend students’ learning be removed, but also a source of learning support for many students would be lost.

I have benefited from participation in early strings as well as middle school bands and strings.

I have not benefited directly from the upper level administration, such as the school learning team, which has not been cut significantly, and has no tangible connection to students in schools. I hadn’t even heard of many of the administrative positions at the board level until I read about the budget cuts.

As someone with obssessive-compulsive disorder, I can say confidently that my success as a student in other areas of study including academics has benefited directly from the skills, mindset and joy French immersion and music have brought me.

My second argument: The community the music programs provide to middle schools as well as Grade 5 strings. In elementary and middle schools most students are very divided into English, French immersion, English language learners and late French.

Music creates an opportunity to bring people together in a new learning space, as well as help create more tolerance and understanding of each other.

Going to a band concert, or other events, together created greater communities and better environments within what can be a very toxic environment like middle school.

On the surface it might not look like music provides learning opportunities, but it definitely does. Music combines many different subjects such as history, math and social studies.

The district has been able to provide, at an early age, a path for many students from less lucky backgrounds to try an instrument, and maybe discover a passion. It has provided a program in which all students, no matter social or economic background, can have a chance to work together to create something.

Cutting these programs would create greater inequity between students who can never afford music and those who can afford an enriched music program from an early age.

People have discovered their passion, creativity, maybe even a career path through these programs. Sure, some only do band or strings for a year or less, and most don’t see it as a long-term pursuit.

But is the point of school not to provide opportunities and programs to explore freely? By taking away the programs from younger ages, the school board will sharply reduce the number of people who will join high school band programs and they will lose the opportunity to learn an instrument.

In the music program I could fuel my creativity, I could meet new people and I could have a reason to enjoy school. It gave me a reason to see my education as something worthwhile.

I hope that the greater community of Victoria pushes back and forces school trustees to stop these unconscionable cuts to music programs that are being proposed.

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