Let mu­sic live in Vallejo

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - OPINION -

Editor’s note: More than 50 con­trib­u­tors signed this let­ter. All their names can be found in the on­line ver­sion of this let­ter at www.timesher­al­don­line.com.

This let­ter is signed by con­cerned alumni of the Vallejo City Uni­fied School District and/or for­mer stu­dents of Mer­lin Chest­nut, the cur­rent mu­sic di­rec­tor at Solano-Wi­den­mann K-8 and Franklin Mid­dle School. We are dis­mayed to hear about the Vallejo City Uni­fied School District’s cur­rent pro­posal to elim­i­nate the mu­sic di­rec­tor po­si­tion and the mu­sic program at SolanoWi­den­mann.

As we un­der­stand the pro­posal, be­gin­ning in the 20202021 school year, stu­dents will not have the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in struc­tured mu­sic pro­grams un­til sev­enth grade, at the ab­so­lute ear­li­est. More­over, since Franklin Mid­dle School is clos­ing at the end of this school year, this will leave Ho­gan Mid­dle School as the lone mid­dle school with a mu­sic program. Un­for­tu­nately, this ap­pears to be yet an­other ex­am­ple of the de­cline of mu­sic education in our city. (“Vallejo school district mu­sic program in flux,” Vallejo Times-Herald, June 20, 2019.)

We strongly urge the district to re­con­sider this pro­posal and to find a way to fa­cil­i­tate mu­sic education for its cur­rent stu­dents — just as it did for us.

The district’s ad­min­is­tra­tors are surely aware of the im­por­tant ben­e­fits of mu­sic education to its stu­dents’ over­all growth and de­vel­op­ment. Numer­ous stud­ies show that mu­sic education en­hances cog­ni­tive think­ing and rea­son­ing, in­for­ma­tion pro­cess­ing, the suc­cess rates of stu­dents grad­u­at­ing from high school and en­ter­ing col­lege — and the list of ben­e­fits go on and on. This is why the de­cline of the district’s mu­sic pro­grams over the last two decades is so con­cern­ing to us.

Vallejo’s stu­dents de­serve more. They de­serve a mu­sic education that of­fers them a chance to ex­plore, in­vent, cre­ate, and feel with their heart in ways that truly can be lifechang­ing. (“Mer­lin works his mu­sic magic at Solano Mid­dle,” Dec. 14, 2019.) Mu­sic education has been in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to this city for decades. This is ev­i­dent by the way that par­ents, stu­dents, staff, and even celebri­ties have sup­ported our city’s mu­sic pro­grams over the past sev­eral years.

It cer­tainly has been im­por­tant to the un­der­signed alumni, many of whom took in­spi­ra­tion from

Mr. Chest­nut and be­came mu­sic ed­u­ca­tors as well. Many of us have taught at mu­sic pro­grams at school dis­tricts which un­der­stand the im­por­tance of mu­sic education and have fa­cil­i­tated the de­vel­op­ment of thriv­ing mu­sic pro­grams at the el­e­men­tary and mid­dle school lev­els. The cal­iber of stu­dents’ flu­ency and knowl­edge in the per­form­ing arts is typ­i­cally much greater at those high schools that ben­e­fit from strong el­e­men­tary and mid­dle school pro­grams.

By way of ex­am­ple, just a few weeks ago, the Times-Herald pub­lished an ar­ti­cle about a mu­sic pro­fes­sor who di­rectly cred­ited Mr. Chest­nut with in­spir­ing him to pur­sue mu­sic education.

(“Texas prof thrilled with Solano County Honor Band,” Jan. 23.) These types of suc­cess sto­ries might not have been pos­si­ble with­out the vi­brant mu­sic pro­grams that this district used to sup­port. We re­spect­fully urge the district to re­new its sup­port of mu­sic education for its stu­dents.

— Judy Ar­cala/Vallejo

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