The Long Beach Unified School District remains committed to providing high quality music programs. Developments in the law prohibiting public schools from charging students most educational fees, however, are changing the way instrumental music instruction is offered statewide, including here.
The prohibition against charging students for participation in certain educational activities will affect a number of areas of education. For instrumental music, that means LBUSD is planning to provide a musical instrument for any child who wants to participate in the program, free of charge. Parents cannot be required to rent or buy their child’s instrument.
Billions of dollars in statewide cuts to public schools have made the situation all the more challenging.
For now, the most noticeable changes to music programs this year are affecting the elementary grades. While elementary parents can still be encouraged to voluntarily buy or rent an instrument for their child, there is a need for thousands of musical instruments at local schools. Monetary donations toward the cause are being accepted by the nonprofit Long Beach Education Foundation at lbschools.net/give.
Do you have a dusty, lonely instrument that needs a child? Both new and good quality, functioning used instruments are being accepted. Call 997-8175 to donate instruments, or bring instruments to a collection day scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Teacher Resource Center, Room C, 1299 E. 32nd St., Signal Hill.
As the school district gathers additional instruments, elementary parents are noticing a few changes to music programs. Elementary students who are interested in instrumental music are being selected for the programs this month on a lottery basis. Once those students are selected, schools determine how many of those students choose to provide their own instruments. Remaining instruments at each school will be offered to students on a waiting list.
Most of the interested LBUSD students are being accommodated through the lottery approach, but only because elementary students this year are sharing sets of instruments and cannot take them home to practice. Parents are advised not to buy or rent an instrument until their child is accepted via the lottery process.
In addition to the lottery approach, LBUSD has suspended third grade strings along with beginning woodwinds and brass in fourth and fifth grades this year. Remaining programs at the elementary level include beginning and advanced violin in fourth and fifth grades, and advanced winds in fifth grade. The school district aims to restore the suspended programs when it has enough musical instruments.
Nearly 1,000 violins are needed for fourth and fifth graders at a cost of about $265,000, said James Petri, LBUSD music curriculum leader. Petri estimates that about 275 trumpets are needed in fourth and fifth grades at a cost of about $126,000.
The school district also needs cellos, flutes, clarinets, saxophones and trombones.
Music programs at several LBUSD schools have earned national honors for their excellence, including GRAMMY Signature School awards. Students here routinely perform with some of the world’s top musicians at national and international festivals.
“We intend to maintain our long tradition of musical excellence,” Petri said. “But the need for instruments is great. Our schools and students need help.”
Students involved in music have been shown to perform better academically. Their academic achievement can be directly related to the discipline required to learn music, as this discipline transfers to other subjects of study.