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Sound of Silence: Music education also hard hit by by budget cuts

By Jessica Lyons (Monterey County Weekly)

California music classes and teachers declined dramatically between 1999-2000 and the 2003-04 academic year, according to the aptly named “The Sound of Silence” report, authored by Music For All, a national music education organization.

The study found that, during a time when California public school student population increased by nearly 6 percent, students involved in music education declined by 50 percent—the largest of any academic subject area. Additionally, the music teachers declined by almost 27 percent, or 1,053 teachers.

“Here we are, five years later, we’re not much better,” says Dr. Rob Klevan, Monterey Jazz Festival’s education director.

“We’ve had several cuts in the Monterey area, especially to elementary school programs that are pretty much gone throughout the county,” he says. “That’s affected the next step, which is middle schools, which then affects the high schools.”

Vanisha Evans Douvon works as program manager for Youth Music Monterey, a nonprofit that supports two orchestras, a chamber music program, and in-school teaching and performance opportunities throughout Monterey County. These days, the ensembles have a hard time fill their chairs with student musicians.

“Orchestra, especially,” she says. “You’d think there will be a lot a flutes or clarinets and we’re struggling to even find those instruments.”

Evans Douvon is a product of local public schools and their music programs, which now no longer exist.

“I started taking music classes in forth grade, for free, from elementary through high school,” she says. “I took music at Ord Terrace Elementary. They don’t have a music program anymore, I went to King Middle School. Their music is program is extinct. And then to Seaside High School, and theirs is basically a beginning-level ensemble because there isn’t a program at the elementary or middle school level.”

She went on to college, earned a degree in music, and, for the first time, paid for private lessons. She shudders to think about how different her life—and career path—would be were it not for free music education in public schools, which is the reality for today’s Seaside kids, and those in other parts of the county.

“There’s still music programs, mainly in Pacific Grove, Carmel even Monterey. But Seaside, Marina Salinas, South County have little to nothing.”

Youth Music Monterey helps fill that gap by offering scholarships, private lessons, even carpools for students.

“We try to make a way, and we want to make sure money isn’t an issue. I feel strongly about that because I was that kid. I don’t know what I would be doing if not for music.”

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