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Music education gets boost with new instruments
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When the number of Medeiros Elementary School fifth graders grew to be too much for band teacher Sarah Carpenter, the school split up the students by instrument family. Students alternated between a class taught by Carpenter and a class taught by classroom teachers.

Turlock Unified School District has purchased nearly 50 additional instruments for its many music programs, which are undoubtedly growing in popularity.


Take for instance Medeiros Elementary School’s band. This year, teacher Christine Rowell reported during a TUSD Board of Trustees meeting earlier this month that the approximately 75 fifth grade students involved in the music program actually “outgrew” the band teacher.


“That’s a very good problem,” said Rowell.


While the school endeavored to find a permanent solution to this issue, Rowell and fellow fifth grader teacher Jennifer Collins facilitated an immediate, but temporary resolution by offering to host half of the fifth grade students in their classrooms during the music block. Students were split by instrument family and alternated between a class taught by band teacher Sarah Carpenter and a class taught by the classroom teachers.


“We looked at various scheduled options to support all students,” said Carpenter. “Heidi Lawler and the district office worked to come up with a solution to provide students with equitable music instruction. Rebecca Somers, a TUSD music teacher, is now teaching half of the band students twice a week.”


The estimated 75 fifth graders are part of the greater 125 Medeiros students who are in band this year. Students in first through fourth grade participate in classroom music and students in fifth and sixth grade can choose to participate in instrumental music and choir.


The popularity of the band program at Medeiros is just one example of the success of music programs throughout TUSD. Carpenter noted that band enrollment at Dennis Earl Elementary School is nearly identical.


Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Heidi Lawler said that during the Local Control Accountability Plan review process last year, it was determined that more instruments were necessary to allow more students to participate in music programs. The practice of not only purchasing new instruments, but also repairing old ones, is an annual practice for TUSD.


“Through the Local Control Accountability planning process, the District included an action to expand access and opportunity for students in the area of music education,” said Lawler. “To support the action, $75,000 was allocated to increase instrument inventory as well as maintenance, repair, transportation and professional development.”


“The funding source is general education,” added Lawler.


Lawler said that all music programs—choir, orchestra and band—throughout TUSD have greatly expanded over recent years, with more students joining every year. Certain music sites have taken specific measures to effectively respond to the influx of interested students, including Turlock Junior High School, which increased the number of orchestra sections due to the program’s growing popularity.


Additionally, the annual TUSD Festival on the Green has grown from just a one-evening concert held in the Turlock High School gym to a full-day music festival that includes four full concerts performed by a number of musical groups. The festival is scheduled for March 19 of next year.


“TUSD choir, orchestra and band students perform and compete in music festivals and reviews throughout the year, earning recognition and awards,” said Lawler. “TUSD music students often have exceptional opportunities to travel and perform, including the upcoming Pitman High School band trip to New York City in the spring of 2016.”


The TUSD Board of Trustees and District administration boasts a long history of supporting music education according to Lawler, who said that this supportive effort is also consistent with the TUSD LCAP. The intent of this plan is to increase opportunities for students.


“Students who participate in any of the TUSD musical ensembles gain life skills, which result in college and career readiness, as they work together as a team with peers for a common goal,” said Lawler. “Music students gain musical skills, yet, even more importantly, they develop confidence in performing and collaborating with their choir, orchestra, or band colleagues and director.”


Carpenter echoed Lawler’s comment and said that students who participate in music programs gain more than just art skills. Through these programs, students gain confidence, hone their higher-order thinking skills and enhance the sense of community they feel with other students. Carpenter said that a majority of these students go on to continue their education at a four-year university or junior college, or join the military.


“The importance of music education cannot be overstated and I am grateful that I work in a district that values music for all students,” said Carpenter. “Each instrument purchased by TUSD will service many students for years to come.”


“Increasing access to instruments is one of the ways we support students,” added Carpenter.