We’re doing our students a disservice

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Recently I saw some pictures on my Facebook. They were from the Albuquerque Youth Symphony and its recent visit to Socorro High School. My first thought was, “How nice!” My second thought was, “Why can’t the children in Socorro have access to quality music programs?”

Since 2005, the Socorro Consolidated School system has worked to block access to quality music programs for the children in Socorro. I know this because I was the elementary music teacher in Socorro from 1999-2005. I chose to leave Socorro after an administrator told me point blank, “It is nice that we have a music teacher, but since the children are not tested on it, it’s really not important.”

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated opinion of a single misguided administrator. This was clear when the music position at Parkview Elementary went unfilled after my departure and the other elementary music position (serving Zimmerly, San Antonio, and Midway schools) went unfilled after that teacher retired.

And yet, there was no outrage from the Socorro community. Pity.

Socorro is a wonderful community with many opportunities to enjoy music. The New Mexico Tech Performing Arts Series brings in amazing musical and other performing arts performances and, through a partnership with the schools, Socorro school children often get to attend and watch quality music performances. However, shouldn’t the children of Socorro have the opportunity to make quality music as well?

The children of Socorro deserve better from SCS and the community. Music is NOT extra fluff that can be removed from the curriculum without consequences. Musical skills are lifelong skills that people engaged in throughout their lives. Just as the children of today will utilize for a lifetime the math and reading skills they learn in elementary school, so also will they use the music skills. Who is teaching these skills in Socorro schools?

Music is identified as a core subject in “No Child Left Behind.” While changes are being made to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (presently known as NCLB), music will remain a core subject, which requires that it be taught by highly qualified teachers. That means a person who has specifically studied music and passed certification examinations in music. Socorro is lucky to have such a highly qualified person at Socorro High School.

But the high school music program is not thriving. Why? The answer is simple: no elementary music education in Socorro Schools. In reality, there are small pockets of music education occurring at the elementary level, but it pales compared to what the children of Socorro deserve to have.

It is time for the community of Socorro to put pressure on the Socorro Consolidated Schools administration and school board to restore music education at the elementary level. Bobby Romero was a beloved teacher and musician in Socorro for literally decades. When he passed away, a tree was planted in his memory. Trees are nice, but a more fitting tribute to Bobby Romero would be to insure that every child in Socorro receive quality music instruction from the earliest grades on up to through high school.

That is literally what Bobby Romero devoted his life to and I believe he would be greatly saddened by the current state of music education in Socorro.

Michael Butera, executive director of the National Association for Music Education, stated, “All children should have the opportunity to be involved in the arts, including music, so that they can develop an appreciation for beauty. Music, as well as the other arts, touches the soul and offers children lives that are colorful instead of humdrum. Through the arts, especially through active participation in music, children learn the sort of discipline that enables them to become better organized, to work as members of a team, and, most important, to be more sensitive people than they might otherwise be.”

We do our children a disservice when we deprive them of music education in our schools. It is time for Socorro Consolidated Schools to step up and give the children the quality education they deserve in every subject, including music. The result will be better students and better human beings.

Amy K. Anderson holds a bachelor of music degree from the University of Houston, a master of arts in music education from Stephen F. Austin State University, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in education from Walden University. Amy has over 18 years of experience as a music educator, including 13 years as an elementary/early childhood music specialist (6 years in Socorro). She currently serves as an elementary music specialist for the Rio Rancho Public Schools.