And now I’m officially ticked off.

I found out today that my old high school wants to cut the music program because apparently, music is nothing but a side note in the educational process. And yeah, that pun was totally intended.

I’ll be honest, those last two years in high school were brutal for me. I felt more alone during that part of my life than I care to remember. My friends and I were making very different choices and I came to the gradual realization that sports are for people who like wearing tennis shoes and getting sweaty–two things that don’t look good on me. In a small town at a small high school, kids who don’t play sports don’t have many other options. Music was just about all there was left.

Lucky me!

Our school might have been small but the music programs rocked. If you could get past the really super lame cheap home grown sets, our drama department wasn’t half bad either. Frankly, it’s one of the reasons we want to raise our babies there. In a small town, kids have a shot at just about any extra curricular activity that interests them.

The thing about this situation that really chapsĀ  my hide is that my hands are kind of tied. My sister works at the school, so any information I get from outside sources automatically makes her look like a snitch (which she grew out of 17 years ago). I have a nice little foothold in the community thanks to my column, but in order to protect her I can do next to nothing.

But despite all of that (and to her horror), today I called the principal at the high school. My first attempt resulted in a slightly hysterical message alerting him to my horrified state of mind and determination to bring in the big horns and save the program. My second attempt was probably more intelligent.

I called back and caught him right before he listened to my message and offered up a more honey flavored opinion and some excuse about being hormonally imbalanced.

The result? Unless he’s a liar, he told me this afternoon that he has decided to keep the program going, both band and choir, even if it is only at the most basic level. And you can’t tell me a phone call or two from concerned parents didn’t play a part in that decision.

That is some rockin’ good news.

Friends, we have got to speak up more. If you believe in something then make a call, write a letter, pull the fire alarm. We might not be the decision makers, but we can sure turn on a little heat and stoke the fire. Be courageous. Our voices should be used for more than just calling the family to dinner.


  1. Valerie says:

    Glad to hear that voicing your concerns appears to have worked! Music was the turning point for my son. He started band in 5th grade, ended up getting a bachelor’s in music education, and just finished his second year as a school music teacher. His wife is also a school music teacher. They leave in 2 weeks to start work on their masters. My husband and I are very thankful in the role that music has played in his life, and are thrilled that he is pursuing a master’s degree – especially since at times we thought he’d never graduate from high school. It seems like educators would have seen enough of these type of success stories to know that music really is fundamental!

  2. These programs are always the first to go. You would think with the popularity of Glee, they would be clamoring for them! Although, those teens are rather slutty, so maybe not.

  3. This kind of thing makes me so angry!!
    The band director at my son’s school gave us some statistics about how kids that are involved in music programs have better grades and are more likely to go on to college.
    Why don’t they cut the athletic programs instead? They certainly have less to do with the “educational process” than the music programs do.

    • annie valentine says:

      I could not agree more. Scale back on the athletics a bit and invest some energy and quality teachers in the music programs.

  4. Amen to your last line. We should use our voices for good and never, ever, ever be afraid to speak up.

  5. You and I must have met in a previous life. High school was an awful place for me, too. And oddly enough? I’m actually still using the theater and musical skills I started honing there even today.

  6. I’ll tell you why they don’t scale back the athletics: Money. It’s the same reason the fine arts departments are the first things to get the ax when budgets fall short. No matter how good your performance is, it is the rare high school musical that out-earns the football team, regardless of how crappy that team plays. Community boosters will always pay tons more toward the sports than their fine arts counterparts.

    You know I’m a music geek, and this makes me sick. But here’s a bizarre little twist: Those studies that say that kids who participate in music programs are more likely to attend college are deliberately mis-interpreted. It’s not because they did music, it’s because the music programs tend to attract those kids. Athletics is so hugely supported financially for the very reason that many of those ‘student-athletes’ are way more ‘athlete’ than ‘student.’ So, in quite literal terms, the only chance many of THEM have to go to college – the reasoning goes – is to get an athletic scholarship.

    Then they’ll be in college, still dumb as a rock, still underachieving, but hey! playing football, so three cheers for the future car wash attendant whose glory days were back in high school. so naturally he donates money to – what else? – the high school athletic department.

    I’ve ranted too much, but just one more thing: It could be worse, Annie. You could be attempting to educate your high schoolers here in Las Vegas, where there is no tax base because everyone’s bankrupt, and where they are not only cutting music programs, they’re ELIMINATING AP and honors classes with a hacksaw. And the average class size in a Las Vegas high school next year will be in the 50+ range. Yeah, good luck getting individualized help and attention there. I think I’ll move to Washington and wait for you there.

  7. It’s all about the money unfortunately. I am so impressive with your moxey! Music saved me in high school. I was an athlete too, but music was where I found myself.

  8. Can we put art in the same category? Cause I would have died in high school without my art classes.
    And now that I’ve read all those comments, I’m really glad I went to the middle school band booster dinner my neighbor sold me tickets to last week… I’ve always said it’s good for every kid to play an instrument and do a sport (I count dance). Way to save the program Annie.

    P.S. I loved getting together with you on Monday! 12 years is tooooo long!

  9. I’m so glad they are no longer cutting it. Listening to the choir concerts were always my favorite! The musicals and plays were great! Especially at the cold drafty old theater. Just made it all that more fun!

  10. Good for you!
    I’m the marketing director for a local company, and we get hit up for HS sports sponsorships and donations non-stop. And I’m not talking about $50…some schools are looking for thousands of dollars in donations. I already had 5 schools approach me for the next school year before May was half-way over.
    And each athletic team within the schools approaches us…it starts with football and volleyball, then goes to basketball, baseball, softball and soccer. Don’t forget the cheerleaders and drill team. If the athletic directors were smart, they would have a sponsorship packages to support every team rather than making us choose one or two sports to support with our limited sponsorship budget.
    But that’s a different topic…
    What I really wanted to say is that it’s actually refreshing to get a request from the band or choir or drama department. We have struck deals with those groups that if we make a donation, they will perform at a grand opening or other special event. It works out swell!
    What would the football team do…entertain us with their bench presses?
    Great post…you go girl!!!