WILL BUDGET CUTS HURT QUALITY EDUCATION?NOTES DA CAPO - By John Puffenbarger
Item: "Budget cuts have hurt many schools' efforts to teach children to love music, art. and drama ... More than half the state's high school students never take a class in fine arts or performing arts." -- Charleston Gazette-Mail, March 10, 1991.
This is unfortunate news, since over the years many teachers of the arts have tried to spread all aspects of music and art education throughout West Virainia. They have seen programs grow only to see quality education including the arts begin to diminish today. Leaders in West Virginia arts education include such persons as Harrv Leeper, a former teacher at East Fairmont High School, who was a participant in forming the first Thespian drama clubs--an idea which spread nationwide. East Fairmont holds Thespian Chapter No. 3.
During the 1950s, the art supervisor in Marion county hosted a radio program during the school year. Schools provided elementary students with cards on which were printed works by some of the world's most famous artists. The supervisor would describe the artists' lives as well as the aesthetic values of the pictures to help the children develop an appreciation of art.
In other counties supervisors of music and art would travel to schools to assist teachers with lessons, teach a class, or explain techniques. Today special traveling teachers visit many schools to introduce all the students of the county to the arts.
Other innovations over the years have enhanced the world of music for students. Remember the toy orchestras organized in the primary grades which used sticks, drums, and cymbals, and even had a student conductor? Many counties held "song fests" for choirs, and at the day's conclusion the county chorus would present a concert. High school bands held exchange concerts, with friendships being made in distant cities.
Bands began to participate in state band festivals, solo and ensemble festivals, and jazz band festivals. Choirs sang in choral festivals. Some schools staged musicals, while others invited students to perform in talent shows.
Many of these programs are still in our schools today. Let us hope that the economic climate in our state will permit us to continue to expand the arts programs in all schools and thus insure future generations of students with a quality education.