The people speak: Cutting music would be a big mistake


From: Ruth Bures

On April 10 at 7:48, I posted this on the Facebook page “You Know You’re From Winona If ...” explaining the proposed cuts to the music program, asking for personal experiences with the music program and suggesting they convey opinions to the local papers and the superintendent’s office. I immediately began to receive responses. As of this morning (April 13) there are 69 reactions in support of the statement and multiple eloquent recollections of the impact of District 861’s music programs on their own lives. They represent graduates of WAPS over many generations, now living all over the country. I hope you will read through the written responses my post received. If we want great education in Winona and hope to retain students, we need to listen to these voices.

My post: “If you benefited from the excellent music programs in the Winona Public Schools, please be aware of the superintendent’s plan to cut the program by 30%, which is devastating.” Below are some of the personal comments this post received. I will omit names, but if you are connected with this site, you can easily see who responded.


“Go get um Ruth! There is lots of waste to cut, I see it every day. Not music. Music saves lots of kids.

“The question is: why do they need to make cuts? Get to the root ... what funding is being gutted? Look at the city, county, state, and federal allotments being cut.”

“It’s a sad day!!! Winona is known for its music. A music publishing company and notable people in the music industry for two! Let’s not cut music!!!!”

“That’s ridiculous, I was in band from fifth grade till 12th, marching band from 6th to 12th grade was the best years of school for me and many other members. We learned how to properly march in rhythm while playing an instrument. The music program further made it much smoother for me to join the Air Force where I also was in a marching band. Music was so much similar in the military to the music we played in the parades in Winona. Also thanks to the marching band basic training was a breeze to get through the marching and to this day if it wasn’t for the music and band I wouldn’t have that connection of family because in band felt more like we were one big family representing the district. We had lots of pride in our schools and district at the time and it showed. The band directors are top notch with many, many years of experience. I was in band with the WMS band director in high school. My hopes are for the music programs to stay along with the arts. Music is a way of life. Everyone listens to it on the radio; well it doesn’t just get there. It starts somewhere which often times starts with a child’s interest in school programs. Also forgot to mention that while in the band our Florida trips, along with new equipment and uniforms are not paid for by the district. The band members and directors and clubs at the senior high put on fundraisers to purchase the items needed. So in reality there’s not much cost to the district. The music which is sometimes donated from Hal Leonard and the band directors’ wages I would think is all. In which they earn every penny. Also the marching band is a way for Winona to shine in parades across the area. When I was in we also competed against other schools in the area and made it to Minneapolis to perform a concert. Also just like sports in high school you had to do tryouts for the marching band and also we had to send a tape to Disney and qualify to play in their parade. So if sports are not cut band shouldn’t be either. I just wanted to share my experiences on here since being in the band from 1993-2000 has many memories and friendships tied to it and the best times of my childhood were always in band under the direction of [names of music teachers] at the old WMS, then at WSHS with [music teachers named].”

“Cut sports!”

“The music program was my sole reason for being at school. Loved it. Music is so much more than the credit it is given. Cut debate, trig classes, not the arts.”

“I think this is a terrible idea! Music is needed for students!”

“Music helps with intellectual development more than anything else.”

“Speaking as a student who was raised in the Winona Public Schools in the ‘50s and ‘60s, I am ABSOLUTELY ashamed that the music program would be cut. It was often the highlight of my day, to band practice or singing in our class. I can say that those early morning band practices with Mr. Lehmeier were worth the effort. Band practice was at maybe 6:30 a.m. but we learned a lot about life — not just music. Winona’s tradition with their music programs is known state-wide, if not nationally. We were lucky enough to have both Hal Leonard Music and Edstrom music located in Winona and who supported the music program, along with Winona State who produced MANY music teachers. This act of cutting the music program would be devastating. I can only marine the ‘fat’ that must be associated with the public school administration in Winona, and other NON-ESSENTIAL programs. Do NOT cut music programs — big mistake.”

“I think we better keep our music!! It helps students and people of all ages!!”

“It’s always the music programs. They just don’t get how cutting those programs affects others.”

“So if they are cutting actual curricular programs, are they also cutting co-curricular programs? Is this being brought forward from the administrative leadership team as a recommendation?” (My answer: No.)

“Music is a part of me and that was fostered in grade school, junior high and high school. I can’t imagine what those years would have been like without music.”

“What a sad decision to be making. Growing up and having the opportunity to learn how to play multiple instruments because of the awesome music program opened many doors for me. It expanded my social skills, taught me how to master both hemispheres of my brain simultaneously, and provided me with tons of great memories. I got the chance to perform in the old junior high auditorium before it was so damaged, and I had the honor to march in Washington, D.C., for the Cherry Blossom Festival. Please take the time to review any budget cuts and find a way to save such a blessing of a program.”

“My husband and I both went to WAPS, he from k-12, myself from 10-12. I am curious what 30-percent cut means to the program? Music was important to both of us, but it is the first program that gets cut, and after that the busing distances are increased, they both put pressure on the parents. It is cost cutting focused to get the next vote for monies approved. We have experienced that tactic more than once where we live now. I feel bad for you that they have resorted to this tactic.”

“In my experience it fostered discipline (practicing), reward (when you finally can play something recognizable) and teamwork (there’s nothing so amazing as the first time they put the whole band together to play. Such a big noise and you’re part of it). Art and music are always the first things they cut, and it’s wrong. A kid might not be so great at math or English, or throwing a ball around, but he can feel good about the fact he plays the trumpet better than anyone else, or paint a picture people admire, etc. There is more to a good education than the 3 Rs and sports. I also wonder who pays for all the ads they run when a referendum is up for vote? Do they use our money to blackmail and guilt us? Historically the school boards and superintendents have been dismally poor at managing money and assets. They always want more money while cutting programs. Maybe they should take some business classes. Wouldn’t common sense tell you that when considering closing schools, it would make fiscal sense to keep the school where most of the kids walk to save on busing? Nope. That school was Madison, one of the ones they closed.”

“The public school music program in Winona was my start ... I am now with the Chicago Symphony.”

“This is so sad. I went to WAPS from K-12. I played violin from 4-12. Had Milton Davenport as teacher and conductor. Music fills so many niches in life. Plus it was so much fun. There are studies that show the importance of music in a child’s education.”

“WSHS grad 1965 band. Winona has always excelled in MUSIC EDUCATION started in elementary school. BAND, CHOIR and ORCHESTRA.”

So many of these statements echo what research, (my own included) has found. Not all of them realize the brain benefits that musical experience provides to students, which has been consistently proven in research, but all of them recognize the impact music had on their educational lives. The music program will suffer if the teaching staff is reduced by 1/3. Classroom teachers are no longer prepared to offer music education. I have personal experience with that, having taught music for elementary teachers at WSU and SMU. I realized that, no matter how hard I tried to prepare them, most were woefully unable to incorporate music into their daily lessons. One college class is just not enough time to teach them the needed skills and understanding. There are other areas and positions to cut that do not have direct impact on students to, among them curriculum director (861 has gone without that position twice before) and athletic director (could be done by vice principal).


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