Commentary: Music is part of a basic education

Editor’s note: The following letter was initially sent to Gov. Inslee, local legislators and members of state Senate and House committees with purview over education funding. It was copied to Aberdeen School Superintendent Alicia Henderson and Chris Reykdal, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Dear Governor Inslee, Sen. Takko, Rep. Blake, Rep. Walsh, and Committee Members,

The Aberdeen School District recently cut its district-wide music program from seven full-time employees to two and a half full-time employees in response to poor revenue forecasts from the State. I am appealing to you to show strong leadership and take immediate action to mitigate the damage that will be done without swift intervention. Music is a core subject that is not funded by the prototypical model, leaving districts to find other means to pay for it. Music is part of basic education and is critical to the development of our students. The State must provide funding for music in schools for these programs to survive the current COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

In Aberdeen, the cuts will critically injure a pillar of our community’s culture which is strongly rooted in music. In a community beset by long-term economic decline and 52.5% of the population low- to moderate-income, a full music program has been fundamental in uniting the community and providing equal opportunities across economic and cultural lines. Our community does not see the prosperity that other areas of the State see, and music has retained families and residents who value education and the arts. The proposed cuts are dramatic and severe, swiftly ending long-held values and programs. Without intervention from the State, these cuts will do permanent damage:

● Elementary music (K-5) – Eliminated

● Orchestra (grades 5-12) – Eliminated

● Band (grade 5) – Eliminated

● Band (grades 6-12) – Reduced 28%

● Choir (grades 6-12) – Reduced 34%

Music in the younger grades feeds up to programs in higher grades, and higher grades feed into the community and into programs at Grays Harbor College. Aberdeen’s orchestra program is the last in Grays Harbor County, and if it is eliminated, a rich cultural resource will be lost. The orchestra program feeds string players into the Grays Harbor Symphony, the oldest community symphony in Washington State playing two concerts for the community every year. Without players feeding into it, it too will be a victim of these cuts.

Again I am asking for bold leadership and immediate action to save our music programs. We cannot let COVID-19 permanently injure the roots of our community and take away from the well-rounded education of our students. Music education remains as important as ever as we experience social distancing and embark on distance learning.

Kris Koski