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Letter To The Editor – May 28, 2009

To the Editor:

    I just read with dismay that the Water Valley School Board voted in their meeting, Tuesday, May 19, at the recommendation of Superintendent Sammy Higdon, to discontinue the fifth grade band program. As someone who was a proud member of the Water Valley band program from fifth grade through my senior year (1978-1985), I can’t tell you how terribly disappointed I am by this action.

    On paper, it may look good giving students more time with teachers, but if you weigh that against what kids get from participating in the band program, especially at that age, I just don’t see the benefit. Band is about more than just learning to play an instrument or concerts or marching at the half-time of a football game. It teaches students discipline. It teaches them concentration and to think on their feet. It has students learning to work together while also challenging them to work to do the best they can on an individual level.

    There is more and more evidence that shows that students who are involved in music programs do better overall academically. They have higher grade point averages, they do better on standardized and college admission tests. But the benefits go beyond that. Band students can get good scholarships from most universities and even better scholarships for junior colleges.

    In addition to the academic and financial benefits, band can also help kids develop social skills and can offer students so many opportunities to go out and meet new people. There are summer band camps, band clinics, competitions and a whole array of opportunities for students, individually or as a group, to go out and work with and compete against students from other schools.

    Why on Earth would you want to cut back on a program that offered so much?

    I just feel that cutting the program is the wrong move not only for the band program, but for the students as well. Maybe it will add some more classroom time. Maybe it will, as stated in the article in The Oxford Eagle, lower the student-teacher ratio, (though it wasn’t explained exactly how it would do that.)         But I don’t think that those outweigh the benefits that will be lost by cutting the program.

    The band program was important to me and to so many others who went through it before and after me over the years. I was fortunate enough to spend my eight years in the program under Stanley and Becky Crow, both of whom taught me so much more than how to play a French horn and march in a straight line. The bond and trust that grows between a student and a teacher they have so much contact with over so many years can be the most important thing in the lives of some kids.

    Please don’t cut that short. Please reconsider taking this opportunity away from the children of this community.

Joseph R. Gurner
1622 Central Street
Water Valley, MS

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