Testimony to the DC City Council Committee of The Whole

By  Dorothy Marschak, President of CHIME,  February 8, 2005

 

 

Introduction:

CHIME’s mission is to mobilize community resources to promote and provide music education for DC public schoolchildren, during and outside of school. Our goals include getting public support and funding to provide quality music education in the required curriculum for all DC public schools, enriched and supported by community resources. In addition to our advocacy, we have provided free instruction, performances; instrument donations and teacher training that have reached directly over 12,000 students and 250 teachers in over 50 schools in the 7 years our non-profit has been operating with no paid staff.

 

However,  no matter how much support and enrichment CHIME and all the other arts organizations that do outreach to the DC public schools provide, they cannot substitute for a systematic music curriculum available to all our students or compensate for the current unequal and inadequate state of DC school music education.

 

The Proposal: We request that you authorize and allocate $250,800 in public funds for 12 music camps to be held at schools around the city during the 6-week summer school session of 2005. The music camps would be organized by the DCPS Director of Music and provide 20 hrs a week of intensive training in music fundamentals and performance. Students would be expected to attend regularly and fully participate. These camps would raise the quality of school music training and performance, and serve as a prelude to accomplishing the larger goal of creating and funding a required superior arts curriculum for all DC Public Schools in the future, that Superintendent Janey has endorsed. This would include providing opportunities for participating in bands and other instrumental ensembles from elementary school on up.

 

Cost breakdown of the proposed camps and number of students served:

 

 $172,800 for 48 teachers (4 at each camp) @ $30/hr for six 20-hour weeks.

 $12,000 for music and supplies  @ $1,000 per camp

 $66,000 for stipends for 100 students, who would otherwise  need to find employment.

 More students could be added at a cost of $660 per student.

 Each camp could accommodate 120 students (assuming a load of 30 students per

 teacher) for a total enrollment of almost 1500 students.  DCPS would provide facilities  

 and maintenance and security services. I have the guarantee of the Chief Academic

 Officer of DCPS, Dr. Curry, that if funds are voted for DCPS for this program, they will

 be dedicated to this use.

 

 Locations of the camps as proposed by DCPS Director of Music Ben Hall, pending

 summer availability.

 

Ward 1: Bell Multicultural SHS

Ward 2: Jefferson JHS, Hardy MS

Ward 3: Deal JHS

Ward 4: Roosevelt SHS

Ward 5: Dunbar SHS

Ward 6: Hine JHS, Eastern SHS

Ward 7: Kelly Miller MS, Woodson SHS

Ward 8: Hart MS, Ballou SHS

 

Current sad state of music education in DCPS: For well over a decade, there has been a steady deterioration in the quantity and quality of music education offered in the schools. Our once nationally famous school bands either no longer exist, as in the case of Cardozo, or are struggling along with insufficient old and damaged instruments, second-hand uniforms held together with pins and glue, and students who never see an instrument until high school. Last Friday the city honored the Ballou band with a Proclamation for Ballou Band day. But where would the Ballou band have been had it not been for Post columnist Courtney Milloy publicizing the plight of that band that didn’t have the funds to travel to compete in a national contest (that it ended up winning second prize in)?

 

Currently 37% of elementary school students in this city and 11% of high school students receive no music education at all, according to DCPS statistics. The numbers are over 60% and over 20% respectively in Wards 6 and 7. Only a handful of elementary schools offer instrumental programs. John Philip Sousa middle school (ironically, on this150 th anniversary of his birth), as another Post columnist, Marc Fisher, reported in a recent column, is just one of many middle or Jr high schools with no instrumental music, or any music for that matter. Few schools have even one decent piano or rhythm instruments for the younger children.

 

CHIME began advocating for summer music programs when Mr. Watson told us last year, after we gave some instrument donations to his school, that his dream was to have a summer music program. He remembered how much that had done for him when he was a DCPS student, back in the days when DC financed summer music programs and paid kids needed stipends to attend them. We are collecting stories from many past participants in DC school music programs about how their lives were positively affected by that opportunity. I ask you to really honor Mr. Watson and the Ballou Band by granting him his dream—one we can assume is shared by every music teacher and student…present and potential… in the city.

 

Net benefits per dollar spent to participants and the city from funding the proposed camps. Two of the benefits that were put forward to justify public funding of the new baseball stadium were the impact on economic development and future tax revenues and the boost to civic pride and sense of community. I argue that per dollar spent, the return from funding summer and school music programs would be many times greater.

 

·        Re spurring economic development and ultimately adding to net city revenues.

Developing skills in our youth that enhance academic performance and prepare for good careers, as participation in music ensembles has been shown to do, is arguably the most cost-effective form of economic development, and leads to future increased tax revenues. It would also reduce the social costs of dealing now with another summer where idle youth without organized activities or employment fall into anti-social activities, or in the future with a pool of unskilled and unemployed or low-wage workers. There is an increasing body of evidence of the benefits of instrumental or choral music study for children: aside from providing life-long personal enrichment, it tends to improve academic performance, foster creativity, develop discipline and a sense of self-worth and promote cooperation with others. Bands and other ensembles could be considered “positive gangs” that provide the peer support and sense of identity that kids otherwise might seek in anti-social gangs and crews. Also, kids with instrumental ability can earn money from gigs while still in school, as well as be launched on musical careers if they so choose.  Most of our current school music teachers got their start in school bands. Many prominent people also credit school band experience with contributing to future success, eg. Bill Clinton in his autobiography.

 

·        Re bringing the city together and creating civic pride:

Time was when our school bands were the pride of their schools and neighborhoods, particularly African American ones, and received national recognition. Mr. Lloyd Hoover, here with me, who created the Shaw Jr. HS band and taught many of our current music teachers and inspired generations of students, will testify about kids he knew who  were turned around by their participation in the bands.  CHIME is partnering with the Anacostia Museum in documenting the role these bands used to play in a project called “Banding Together-Then and Now”, that we hope will help to make the public aware of what we had and what we want to bring back to DC.

 

Last year while Ballou was reeling from one front-page tragedy to another, there was another story that didn’t get publicized: Band director Darrell Watson told me that while Ballou was closed during the mercury clean-up, his kids showed up every day on the school yard in the November cold to practice. They didn’t have good instruments and their uniforms were falling apart, but they had the spirit that the whole nation saw during the Inaugural Parade. Now the band is a source of pride to the whole school, and everyone wants to get in it. There are other school bands and ensembles today in DC with dedicated teachers , and others that could be in the schools now lacking them,  if this Council would do for them what Courtney Milloy helped do for Ballou—get them the  public support and funding they need.

 

Music camps for this summer are just a beginning to what needs to be done to bring music and other arts education back to all our public schools. I will be back when you hold hearings on the 2006 school budget to promote funding for music teachers for every school, and funding for the first time for instruments and uniforms.  But let us not lose this opportunity now to make that beginning with the proposed summer music camps that will cost only 1% of what it is estimated to cost just to refurbish RFK for spring baseball this year and will bring lasting benefits to the 1500 students enabled to participate and to the city.

 

Excluding the cost of   stipends, this proposal would provide each participating student with 120 hours of intensive training at a cost of less than $125, that could yield life-long benefits! How many hours of baseball or movies or any other source of short-term gratification could $125 buy!  What better investment in our future could you make?

 

Thank you for your consideration,

 

Dorothy Marschak

Founder and President

CHIME (Community Help In Music Education)

Ph: 202-232-2731; fax: 202-234-5887

Email: dmarschak@chime-dc.org

Website: www.chime-dc.org