Performing Arts Underfunded: An Epidemic?

Connor Mendenhall, Contributor

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A school’s job is to prepare it’s students for the real world, correct? In our country, and nearly everywhere else in the world, we plagued by a society that values athletics over everything else. This would be understandable, if the success rate of athletic teams was significantly higher than that of the choir or band. This would be understandable if the revenue brought in by let’s say football was far more than the revenue brought in by a musical. This would be understandable if athletics really did prepare  you for life. This would be understandable if football or basketball was a skill that you could use for the rest of your life. For some it is, but not for all.

This is why the underfunding of the arts at west valley is such a huge issue, as the arts programs receive almost no funding from the school. I hear a lot of “well the football team does it’s own fundraisers”, which is fantastic. I think that’s great, but with the money that that the school gives the football team, the choir program could do so much more. The cost per student in choir is significantly less than that of the football team. Think about it, in football, you have to have a uniform, a helmet, pads, cleats, padded pants, etc. All these things the school or the football program pays for. In choir do you know what we need? Music. A properly tuned piano (which is a once a year event, about the cost of one football player). A room that doesn’t leak maybe? Recently we have been moved into “the nest” which is an actual classroom, however we still lack the resources to hand out original music (music that hasn’t been photocopied for the last 20 years).

Now, you might be thinking, “that sounds like a lot of money! 50 copies of music for each student? No way.” An original copy costs around 1.63$ per student, for fifty students that’s around 80$. That’s not a lot of money no matter who you are, especially when you take into consideration that the cost of one of the school’s football helmets could buy you 175 copies of said music.

What is being asked here is not much when taken into consideration what needs to be done. The PAC at west valley is not used often by the choir program due to a better one at our sister school. It is not being said that we need to modify our PAC to be similar to theirs, as this would be impractical and ruin a valuable rehearsal space for the dance program. Fixing the roof? Replacing the Ceiling in the green room? Updating the control room’s tech? Basic building maintenance is what is being asked, a job that could be done in an afternoon.

Again, school’s job is to prepare its students for the real world. Now studies have shown that both athletics and music teach some of the same lessons: student engagement, development of positive character traits such as self-discipline, teamwork, and personal responsibility, and capacity to bring people together to build community—in which both football and music have similar positive impacts. There is little, if any, difference, for example, between the sacrifices made, lessons learned, and effort required as a sports-team member whose goal is winning games and a band member who is working to achieve a particular “sound.” This is where the similarities end however. Music is a universal language, while football is an american sport. Football can cause brain damage, even kill. Music stimulates the brain, encouraging development. Football, for nearly all, ends after high school ends. Music is a lesson learned forever. Using myself as an example, I know that no matter where I go, I can still play piano. Having played football, I know that I can’t go anywhere and play football.

In continuation, both programs change the lives of students. Football: discipline, teamwork, work ethic, etc. Choir: discipline, teamwork, work ethic, public speaking, musical literacy, etc. while both teach important life lessons, choir not only teaches more, but can teach everyone. Not everyone in born big or fast, just as not everyone has natural singing aptitude. However, you cannot teach someone to  be big, or to be fast, but you can teach anyone to sing. ““Everyone who can speak can learn to use a singing voice,” says Joanne Rutkowski, professor of music education. “The quality of the voice is dependent on many factors; however, barring a physical vocal disability, everyone can learn to sing well enough to sing basic songs.””-Joanne Rutkowski, Ph.D., professor of music education and coordinator of music education programs at Penn State. (July 20, 2012) This means that music, unlike football, can help all students equally. Yes, not everyone can sing the same as others, but unlike football, those who have difficulty or who are incapable of participating in athletics can still participate in programs like choir or drama.

Do not get rid of sports, as that would be absurd, and is not what’s being asked. Rather allocate resources a little more evenly, as to allow both programs to reach full potential. Again, music is a much more effective, cost efficient, and universal (all students can participate) than the athletic programs, so in a time of economic hardship, why not go that route? After all, a school’s job is to prepare you for the real world, correct?

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