Let music live in Vallejo
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