Area educators are taking a proactive approach to improving access to music education, the Clinton School Board learned Monday evening.
A fine arts committee, comprised of music teachers and administration from all three levels of education, has been working for months to reverse trends of declining enrollment in music programs.
“We’re trying to get as many students into the pipeline of our music programs,” said middle school music teacher Greg Marston, one of the fine arts committee members speaking at Monday’s school board meeting. “…We’re trying to foster an environment that keeps (students) in all the way through.”
Marston said that declining enrollment in music programs has become a problem nationwide, and that the Clinton Commu-nity School District is not immune. While participation may be high at early levels, retention all the way through high school is becoming increasingly rare.
Clinton High School Principal Karinne Tharaldson Jones said lower participation rates may not be indicative of a lack of interest, but rather a result of scheduling issues.
She said that through work with the committee, she has been able to identify some steps to remove some of these scheduling conflicts that may have precluded some from participating in music classes.
Participation in Advanced Placement, or AP, courses is encouraged at CHS, but a limited number of sections can cause a scheduling conflict. By adding in multiple AP sections, Tharaldson Jones said students would be less likely to be forced into choosing one or the other.
Moving Post-Secondary Enrollment Option classes from fifth period to earlier in the morning would have a similar advantage, she said. She added that moving AP or PSEO classes from their traditional spots could cause scheduling conflicts with other programs. But most of these programs, unlike music, have multiple sections, so students, with some schedule management, should still be able to participate.
The transition from middle school to high school is another obstacle that serves to thin the student musician herd. The solution could be improved communication and expanded interaction between programs, according to Marston.
“That’s a really big crack, a chasm, for kids to fall (in),” Marston said. “We’re helping kids across that divide.”
Students in both middle school and high school are now given more chances to interact, so that younger students know what to expect as they get older. Marston said that the district has increased participation in music festivals, and work on “recruiting” younger students into high school programs.
Elementary Music teacher Chris Hicks said that these actions and others have already had a positive impact on student involvement. Preliminary numbers indicate that the incoming freshman class will have a significantly higher number of participants than in recent years.
“We’re kind of ahead of the game,” Hicks said.