Parent Info about Orchestra Situation in SPS

When I attended a Regional Meeting earlier this fall, I met Keith Bowen and some other parents. They are parents who are concerned about orchestra offerings the follow-thru from middle to high school music especially around the orchestra offerings. I talked with them after the meeting and Keith sent me this article about their concerns which I want to share with you. (I edited this article for length.) If you would like to reach him to join his group or offer ideas, his e-mail is

The new Student Assignment Plan (SAP) changes the demographics of who is assigned to which school. However, specialized programs are still in place at these same locations but now the students are distributed without regard to their interests or merit.

Parents, teachers and local administrators predicted the oncoming situation and how it
would affect a prized resource of music education. They predicted that existing programs would come dangerously close to not having enough participants to justify a full time professional educator (125 students). Calculations indicated that schools that thought they were going to have new programs would not receive a critical mass necessary to fill a classroom. Petitions were gathered and presented to the administration. Emails poured into the suggestion site. Meetings were attended. The school board was addressed. Individual meetings with board members were arranged and parents met regularly to discuss ways to be heard by the district. The 2009-2010 school year was discouraging to these community members. They felt that they had no voice. Their ideas to help went unnoticed with the district administration refusing to listen or meet with them.

The 2010-2011 school year has now begun and the predictions and calculations of the
naysayers have proven accurate. But this year there are unifying themes. The shock of having only nine, moving downward to five, in the upstart orchestra classroom at Nathan Hale; and the diminished freshman class at Roosevelt, has alarmed all. At a recent Goodloe-Johnson coffee conversation meeting at Eckstein Middle School parent representatives were able to dialogue with Goodloe-Johnson and Susan Enfield. Principals were also in attendance. Parents came prepared with a number of well thought
out plans to help the existing students and separate plans for the future. These plans focus on building music programs in all schools, spring-boarding off the success of the current programs. The parents felt they had an audience and an official meeting was scheduled and held. A plan has been created that should mitigate some of the problems this year within a short timeline, and a suggested promise for meetings about the future was taken into advisement. Principals seem to be trying to help. The Roosevelt freshman orchestra has gained a few underserved students as a result of the recent adjustments in student assignments. Educators, parents and students in established programs are finding ways to reach out to the new programs. The area’s professional music educators are meeting discussing long-term ideas. They seem encouraged by the prospects of stabilized feeder elementary schools that the new SAP brings, while very concerned about the health of the high school programs.

Obstacles that have been unearthed include but are not limited to: transportation,
official instructional time, teacher training and education, site based management verses district oversight, territorial protection, specific contractual restrictions, fear of upper administration, pride in an ideology placed above the well being of current students, fear of change and fear of failure. It is sad to realize how easily most of these problems could have been overcome if dealt with before the new SAP was implemented. Now we must work to change the barriers for success from hindsight.

The middle school teachers have a clear and realistic view of the situation. They are in a difficult emotional situation. They see great benefit from music education and see young lives transformed by being part of something as cooperative and cognitive as music. Yet to lead students into such a pursuit without a similar experience available in high school seems cruel. It is difficult to prove “ the chicken or the egg” . Students involved in school music programs have some of the highest test scores and success rates in other academic areas. Our Seattle Public Schools have produced some of the countries most outstanding school musical groups. Our community loves to site the awards and achievements of these groups as an affirmation of the success of our community as a whole.

Equity in such cognitive pursuits cannot be achieved by equal access to “educational materials” but may only be achieved by equal access to high achieving programs. Let us all set aside our pride and come together work for real solutions.


uxolo said…
Keith, how are the numbers this year at Hamilton and Washington and Eckstein? Can you give us an idea of what needs to change? More detail?
SE Mom said…
I had heard that the strings program at Chief Sealth was going to expand this year and that orchestra would be now offered at Franklin. Does anyone know if either of those plans have been implemented?
Rose M said…
What happened at Roosevelt & Hale with the NSAP is that it split the Eckstein orchestra. That program was not big enough to make 2 orchestras.

You can have a strings class, or offer private lessons, but you can not play symphony music with a dozen kids.

You also can not have a program with just one orchestra in a school. The kids who play together need to be similar in ability level. If they are going to learn anything, they need to be able to advance through more than one ability level.

To have an orchestra program takes a certain number of kids. The orchestra teachers all knew this & tried to work with the district to build a system that could be expanded to other schools as the number of kids increased. But it was not important to the district administration, who decided that if they funded a teacher, they could say there would be an orchestra at each school.

It didn't work. But I think the parents are deluded if they believe that the district administration cares about this.
They've done their best to stamp out excellence in math, language arts, & now science; why would they worry about excellence in music?
hschinske said…
You also can not have a program with just one orchestra in a school.

That I have a hard time believing. I'd have thought most high schools have only one orchestra, and that closer in size to a chamber orchestra than a symphony.

Helen Schinske
Keith said…
Eckstein 116 not including begining orchestra

Hamilton 66 in three orchestras, I do not know if this includes any begining students

Washington 81 in two orchestras, I do not knonw if this includes any begining.

What needs to change? They need a well thought out plan for the future. Listing to the music educators and parents would be a great start.

The recent listening and response from Susan Ensfield has been encouraging. Bringing appropriatly skilled and empowered persons together to deal with this situation is what is needed. They have started here in the NE. I hope they will be encouraged to continue and expand.
Keith said…
Garfeild has 3 orchestras
Roosevelt has 3 orchestras
Eckstein has 4 orchestras
Hamilton has at least 3
Washington has at least 2
hschinske said…
By the way, I was speaking generally, not specifically about Seattle schools, when I said I thought most high schools have just one orchestra.

Helen Schinske
MathTeacher42 said…
Keith at 10/24/10 5:29 PM

Might you have a minute to explain to this dense math teacher why there are 2 and 3 orchestras?

I'm scratching my head, and now I'm just curious.

Are the kids broken up by skill level ... ??? or ...???

thanks if you have a moment.

wsnorth said…
One thing rings true. You name an issue created by NSAP thie sentence resonates:

"It is sad to realize how easily most of these problems could have been overcome if dealt with before the new SAP was implemented."
Tosca said…
More than one orchestra? That strikes me as a bit much. But I guess it depends on the purpose of the separate orchestras.

I played at in an excellent orchestra in middle school and high school. Our high school orchestra had at least 80 kids in 9th-12th grades. There was a wide range of abilities among the string players (the brass, winds & percussion were pulled from the first several chairs in the symphonic band).

Those who really excelled from the string sections (1st-6th chair, approximately) also played in a chamber orchestra. However, it was more of an additional challenge and met as an extra curricular activity.

What was absolutely critical to having a successful symphonic orchestra, however, was a critical mass of students to make up a full and robust orchestra. We had some players who had been playing since they were 4 or 5 (the Suzuki kids) and the rest of us who had started in 4th or 5th grade.

Those who started later (or didn't practice as much) just sat farther back in the section and worked to the best of their ability.
GreyWatch said…
Are orchestra and band the same thing in this conversation?

Hamilton has at least 3 bands (beginner, cadet, and advanced, as well as 2 after-school jazz bands. not sure if senior jazz band is different from advanced band, but whatever it is, they have it). They also have a choir. All of those, with the exception of the two after-school jazz bands, are classes held during the school day.

I'm not sure if they have orchestra on top of this, or if it is all the same thing. I know they are taking over one of the rooms built for PE because they have already outgrown their two month old space.

Pretty phenomenal growth for a school that just over a year ago had only after-school based programs (from what I'd heard). I think NSAP will ultimately offer provide more opportunities to more kids. W

Scheduling this stuff must be a nightmare. My son was not able to take band because his level (Cadet) met at the same time as the only 7th grade spectrum class.
Rose M said…
I think the reason to have more than one orchestra is so that students can advance to more difficult music and build on what they have learned.

I think they are mostly divided by skill level and membership in upper level orchestras is by audition. There is always variation in skill level in every orchestra, but too much variation limits the repertoire.

The students are expected to learn & improve their playing with each year of experience, though they may not move up to a new orchestra each year. These are classes, with credit, homework & grades. They are different from clubs.

Roosevelt also has 3 or 4 levels of Jazz bands.
Anonymous said…
Aren't all really serious aspiring orchestral musicians really going to wind up in one of the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras? I mean, it's always been one of the best in the country. Why would we want to make a feeble attempt to duplicate that in a few public schools? I like the district's plan: equal access to a base level of music in all schools; and one of the 5 levels of youth orchestra for students who wish to go beyond that. I do not think it in any way fair to change the assignment plan to give priority to students based on musical ability. If we did that in basketball, for example, it result in sanctions. In reality, any serious music student is going to have to have tons of private lessons beyond public schooling to really make it, at any level past high school.

Former Musician
Anonymous said…
I completely agree with anything that will build up the music programs from elementary on up -- but I don't get why the small orchestra groups are such a huge problem for students. Plenty of complex chamber music exists for small and mid-size ensembles, including works that bring in woodwinds, percussion, etc. Seems like the problem is more that the small groups are not "efficient" and it will be costly to maintain a teacher for a smaller group.

So? Either the district commits the money up front, allows the small groups & tries to grow them over a few years. Or they don't.
seattle said…
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seattle said…
I like the idea of a base level orchestra at each school. I like that idea far better than having a few great large orchestras at only 1 or 2 high schools. If all of the good aspiring musicians are funneled into only two or three schools, then what are the rest of the schools left with? With the NSAP and a lack of school choice, that hardly seems equitable, or even reasonable. And I'd hate to see the NSAP have assignment "exceptions" for musicians, or any other group of students.

Of course if there really is a desire to have an award winning orchestra in SPS, then maybe we should have a music magnet option school, open to all who want to attend.
Anonymous said…
Plus, there's the SYSO, for those who wish to be in the 1 or 2 "great" orchestras. Opportunity exists.

Former Musician
SE Mom said…
All high schools should have some sort of strings program, whether it be a chamber group or a full orchestra.

Franklin for instance, has no strings program at all (unless something changed this year, which seems unlikely). That needs to be addressed as much as whether other schools have more than one full orchestra.

I don't think that SYSO for the most part is a subsitute for public school strings programs. My kid loves playing the violin, she is good but not stellar. I think of her participation in the same way I think of school sports - she isn't going to make the varsity girls soccer team. She is more of a non-cut sport kinda athlete. No cut cross country is just as valuable and enjoyable to kids as are the school music programs that serve all levels of musicians.

Greywatch - Orchestra and band are not the same thing. There are no strings in band.
klh said…
Greywatch -
Yes, Hamilton has four orchestra classes in addition to the band classes you mention. I believe three of them are strings only and then Symphonic Orchestra brings in winds, brass and percussion. Beginning orchestra is a place for kids who didn't start SPS music in 4th or 5th grade to start from the very beginning, and the other groups are based on level of ability.
uxolo said…
Many students who study classical musical in orchestra also play in the jazz bands. We have a history of offering excellent music programs, develop award winning jazz bands and orchestras, and of course, this tradition should be preserved. Seattle is famous for its young musicians and many go on to become professional musicians.

Keith - can you please share what the proposals are?
hschinske said…
Aren't all really serious aspiring orchestral musicians really going to wind up in one of the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras? I mean, it's always been one of the best in the country. Why would we want to make a feeble attempt to duplicate that in a few public schools?

Er, because it's not a feeble attempt at all? We have public school orchestras that get national recognition as well. Come hear them sometime.

My daughter, who plays viola, got into the top level orchestra at Garfield with essentially no private lessons (she has met with a private teacher a few times -- three, I think -- but never gotten going with regularly scheduled lessons). She did have private piano lessons a long time ago.

It's been vastly easier (and cheaper), in terms of schedule and so forth, for her to meet the demands of a first-class music program within the school than outside it. Naturally she would also benefit from private lessons (and certainly from practicing a more), and something like SYSO would be a great opportunity, but realistically she doesn't have the time.

The reason for the massive expansion in Hamilton music programs was the influx of APP students (though other students there have surely benefited). One promise the district did keep was to beef up the music program at Hamilton.

Helen Schinske
another mom said…
It is also important to remember that the orchestras at GHS took a long time to become what they are today. I am less familiar with Roosevelt. In his early days at GHS, Mr. Tsutakawa stopped kids in the hallways to ask them to learn an instrument. Parent support and feeder MS's came later and the parent support both money and otherwise is vital. To have one full orchestra requires a critical mass of students interested in playing orchestral music. However,smaller groups of student musicians can be a positive ms/hs experience by organizing chamber groups -as has already been mentioned. This can be comparable to having full orchestras in terms of program quality. Chamber groups are not necessarily always strings. I have seen kid and adult chamber groups that are a mix of woodwinds, brass, and strings.

Several years ago,I observed a small Denny MS strings group that was every bit as polished as WMS. The teacher was clearly dedicated.
seattle said…
Yes, the big increase at Hamilton was definitely due to APP. Hamilton didn't have any band or orchestra at all before last year (except for some club type classes after school).
hschinske said…
There's an article at that tells quite a bit about the evolution of the orchestra program at Garfield, if anyone is interested.

Helen Schinske
Unknown said…
Speaking on behalf of small band and orchestra programs -- on Saturday Ingraham's marching band/color guard competed in Everett and did well. That evening, the string ensemble performed at the Alliance for Education Auction. Both small, but still terrific experiences for the students involved.

No one likes it when their program gets a little smaller, but from the perspective of a school with a small program, I'd love to see the orchestra and band students spread out a bit more, so that each school has a viable basic program. If, after that, some schools can layer on extra ones, terrific!
keith said…
I would like to redirect the focus. Access to quality instruction is at the heart of the issue. This group of parents would like everyone to have access to a string specialist (orchestra) if they would like. It seems reasonable that in other pursuits the new SAP has created the same problem. Under the current situation it is unlikely that quality instruction at any particular school can be provided if only a handful of students are interest in orchestra. Many have thought of solutions to the problem but the roadblock has been access to district leadership. We currently have dialogue, and it is very good. Good administrators and teachers working on a small problem. Perhaps they can be successful and if so use the solution to work in other areas.
I personally am not advocating a particular solution and I believe that there are multiple solutions. For example, the middle and high school teachers are working hard to build larger programs from the elementary schools. An organized system has not been effective in the past because of the feeder pattern. Now they have an established feeder patter in which to work and build. Building from the elementary up will increase the likelihood of orchestras in every school.
Before the new SAP there were problems with access and now there are different problems with access. It seems the best role for me the parent is to be a catalyst for solutions and not pretend to be the expert. My children are lucky and are in quality orchestra programs in the Seattle Public Schools but there are others that are not so fortunate.
klh said…
Keith - Glad to head that your group is working on this issue. I would also like to see everyone have access to a string specialist (orchestra) if they want it. You said that "under the current situation it's unlikely if only a handful of students are interested in orchestra." That's exactly the root of my concern. Now that we have address based assignments, and as far as I can tell Hale hasn't had a strong group of interested string players in the past - those of us living in the Hale area have some tough choices to make if our kids are interested in strings in high school. Of course, there are the open choice seats to try for, but those are most definitely not a sure thing.

You mentioned that your group has good dialogue happening with some good administrators and good teachers working on this issue. Can you give us any more details? I'd really appreciate it!

Given the feeder patterns, Roosevelt should continue to have a good number of string students since Hamilton and Eckstein both partly feed into Roosevelt. The part of Eckstein that feeds into Hale seems to be lacking a viable program. Am I correct on this?

The tough thing about the district only funding teachers if there are enough interested students there already, is that if there is no program, families who really want that option will do whatever they can to go to a school that does have a program. So, only the few who aren't able to access another school via open choice seats will end up at a school with no established program. Catch-22.

I'd like to see something at each school - even if at some schools it is a very small chamber music program.
seattle said…
I thought MGJ has assured every high school will have a band and orchestra? Aren't they currently working on this? Did I miss something?
Anonymous said…
something like SYSO would be a great opportunity, but realistically she doesn't have the time.

That's great that your daughter has the opportunity to be in a good orchestra. Notably though, viola is quite a bit easier than most other instruments. But the argument for a special rule in the NSAP doesn't hold water. She's never going to be a professional with that level of effort. So, why should the whole system be changed just to afford her a superior experience, while at the same time, ensuring that lots of others with a similar level of dedication don't get that? Or perhaps, ensuring that others get no orchestra at all? The idea that all students should basically be funneled into 1 or 2 good programs doesn't serve anyone well. The only good case for that would be that those are the only avenues to professional development. They aren't. Nor are they sufficient.

Former Musician
Jan said…
While SYSO may be a viable option for some, I think we are sadly mistaken to think that it somehow "substitutes" for high quality orchestra programs in public high schools. First, it is extremely expensive; second, it requires rigid out-of-school time commitments that not all students can meet; and most important, there is no way in the world it has enough spaces for all qualified high school students (particularly as some kids with good high school programs are ALSO in SYSO). Many kids who play in high school orchestras are or would be rejected from SYSO. We need to stop allowing the District to divide and destroy programs, and to divide and conquer parent groups, etc.

We need to maintain and grow the existing orchestras at Garfield and Roosevelt (and all of their levels, as the training orchestras are an integral part of what allows the "A" orchestras to excel in national competitions, etc.) At the same time, we need to start working aggressively to develop orchestras at all of the existing public high schools that do not have them.

String orchestras, brass ensembles, woodwind ensembles, etc. are nice, and are probably a step somewhere in the process, but part of what orchestras do is give the kids an opportunity to play the orchestral classics. If schools are limited to small ensembles, there are not opportunities to play much of Tschaikovsky, Mozart, Beethoven, Saint-Saens, Holst, Dvorak, Liszt, etc.
I think what is needed is a high level parent/educator group, covering middle and high schools, to figure out how to maximize the experience. Maybe during the years when we are growing full orchestras in schools, we can create full orchestra experiences if we combine smaller programs (e.g., Sealth/Franklin/RB -- students would work separately on pieces in their own schools, and then would combine for the final series of rehearsals and performances) until each school has enough musicians to stand alone. Perhaps the same could be done in the north end with Hale and Ingraham. Or maybe a small program (like Hale) could do some ensemble work, but could also combine, for some performances, with one of the Roosevelt orchestras, so they can play a wider range of music. If the issue is musical proficiency, perhaps the solution is to do the combined performances with different orchestra levels in the larger school (some Hale musicians would learn pieces to play with Roosevelt's B orchestra, some with the A orchestra, etc.).

Just like athletic kids, musical kids are everywhere in Seattle -- and all that is needed (besides conductors, practice time and space, parent support, etc.) to grow the programs are the opportunities for kids to play really great music.
vitamincee said…
No orchestra or band offerings at the K-8 schools. What about those middle schoolers?
seattle said…
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seattle said…
If we must pool all of our resources in order to have superior, competitive, award winning bands and orchestras in SPS then we'd better pool those resources into one, or two, music magnet option schools open to all aspiring musicians district wide.

How could anyone justify allowing only two neighborhood high schools to get all of the resources when only kids that live within those two schools boundaries have access to them? Meanwhile the unlucky musicians who happen to live in the Hale or Franklin boundaries get nothing, or an orchestra with 5 kids.

That is just wrong on so many levels.
SE Mom said…

There are indeed music programs at TOPS K-8: orchstra, sting quartet, several bands. Also choir. 4th thru 8th grade.
seattle said…
Salmon Bay and Jane Addams have small bands too. But no orchestras.
hschinske said…
That's great that your daughter has the opportunity to be in a good orchestra. Notably though, viola is quite a bit easier than most other instruments. But the argument for a special rule in the NSAP doesn't hold water.

What? There is no special rule in the NSAP and I am not arguing for there to be one. Nor am I arguing for students or resources to be funneled into one or two good programs. I don't know how you got any of that from what I said.

Helen Schinske
Maureen said…
All the MS music at TOPS is paid for by fundraising and fees (the "electives" money all goes to studio art by design-the school isn't big enough to offer more than art and PE in addition to core classes--scheduling would be impossible.) I'm not sure how Salmon Bay and Jane Addams do it. If all of the MSs are getting extra money for music even if there aren't enough kids to make it cost effective then K-8s should get a share as well. Otherwise adding music to those MSs will have to come at the expense of some other elective--has that been made clear?
"...only two neighborhood high schools to get all of the resources"

Wait a minute. Garfield and Roosevelt may get marginally more money because of the size of their music program BUT those programs run mostly on booster money. The district doesn't give any music program a huge amount of money.

I had advocated for an audition rule for the NSAP because of the power of decades of excellence for Garfield and Roosevelt and how difficult it would be to duplicate for other high schools (at least for now). I also think there should have been something for the Biotech Academy at Ballard. But it didn't happen.

The district has now created a true magnet school in STEM at Cleveland. So it wouldn't seem to be weird to ask for some other kind magnet school like a music magnet. (I doubt it would happen but STEM is now an example.)
Anonymous said…
Right Helen. Melissa has argued for the changes to NSAP. I think it's more like sports. You get what you get at your assigned school. That's it. And, that's great. I think all schools should have some orchestra, instead of, a few schools have really super ones. The problem with an audition at 1 great school (as proposed) is that it weakens all the other programs. And none of them are really professional development, nor should that be the goal.

I like the fact that predictable feeder patterns can be developed. And that is made possible by the NSAP. You could even imagine a system where younger feeder students were allowed early access to the high school orchestra to fill out seats. Maybe they've got that now.

Former Musician
Anonymous said…
The STEM thing is completely different. STEM was created to get rid of a school nobody wanted around, by changing the student makeup of the school. Rather, by making it an very unlikely option for MORE undesirable students. Where did these would be Clevelanders go? Is there ANOTHER school whose students the district wishes to rid itself of? I doubt it. I doubt that it would even be possible to swap of another high school for another Magnet. And I doubt anybody would select an "Orchestra" magnet, or even a "Music" magnet, or even an "Arts" magnet. Are you thinking the district co-house with an existing, below capacity school? Something like Ranier Beach + "Arts" Magnet, or Ingraham + "Arts". That would never fly. Who would go?

Besides, the jury's still out on the STEM magnet.

Former Musician
I can only say that yes, the goal is access to some kind of music program at every school (instrumental and choral). That some schools have worked to have great programs is what happens sometimes (just as some schools become great athletic powerhouses).

That said, I do know that being in the Garfield or Roosevelt music program (especially the upper level jazz and orchestra programs) can help you if you intend to apply for a university music program or scholarship. It can have advantages to live near a good program your child wants to be in. Maybe that is the difficult side of neighborhood assignments for everyone else.
Anonymous said…
I like the predicatability of the feeder school program. I remember losing several talented musicians after 5th grade to middle schools that would "feed" into Garfield. There are plenty of families that would make that choice if it was there. Garfield is a powerhouse, and they have worked hard for it, but by attracting the some of the most talented musicians district-wide. This has no doubt weakened some of the other programs. That said, I feel the district should not allow a default music magnet school to continue anymore, unless they were to disband the whole neighborhood schools concept for everyone (not just musicians). The best way to strengthen our neighborhood high school (and middle school) programs is to allow the student to progress through the years together. The music programs I have worked with in West Seattle (Madison MS and Chief Sealth HS) have momentum and are getting stronger. They have a strong base and the families work hard supporting them through booster groups and fundraising. It does not happen overnight, but it can happen. I have also heard good things about the music program at Denny MS and have seen that West Seattle HS has improved over the past few years as well. I believe these programs will thrive over the next decade.
keith said…
Dear all,

I would like to add that many of your ideas are successfully used in other school districts. Almost all large cities have an arts high school. Other districts share resources (teachers) between schools. Others move students between schools. Some have one orchestra. Some have many. Some have an all star orchestra meeting outside of instructional time. Please refocus on the problem! The new status quo is not serving many students and we can do better than this. A list of barriers and excuses are in the article. These are real and significant. I hear a lot of suggestions about how programs can be structured differently but almost no suggestions on how to work with the people of our community to make a plan a reality. The article was intended to report on actual progress. That progress is a beginning. I did not imply which direction I prefer nor do I know where our NE district’s discussions are headed. I do know that they are addressing the under served now and promising to have discussions about the future. They have a list of suggestions that is inclusive of the many ideas that you are sharing. This is so much better than the posturing, rudeness and refusing to meet with organized parent groups of last year. What we need is momentum to keep working. Keep encouraging the administrations that we care about these programs and we appreciate the time and effort they are using in our particular area of concern.

Another interesting note is how Hamilton middle school suddenly emerged with intact music programs. Washington Middle school's APP program was divided and the northern students sent to Hamilton. That first year they had a vibrant music program. My numbers indicate a small overall increase in participation with the sum of the two schools programs. Could this be used to help some or all high schools.
seattle said…
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klh said…
Keith - Yes, a number (mine included) of regular ed kids were thrilled to join the music program when it came along with APP to Hamilton. The music program has been a wonderful benefit for the whole community! (I have to point out that there were some incredibly hard working parent volunteers who really made sure that it happened. It's hard to know where it would have been without them.)

I am however still muddy on the details of the work you and your group are doing, and how other interested folks might help. The general concepts sound good, but I don't know where to go to get the who, when, where details.

You said "...nor do I know where our NE district's discussions are headed. I do know that they are addressing the underserved now and promising to have discussions about the future. They have a list of suggestions that is inclusive of the many ideas you are sharing.....Keep encouraging the administrators, etc."

Keith, how can other NE parents get involved in the discussions that you mentioned? It would be wonderful to be able to access the work that has already been done in forming the list of suggestions that already exists. Can you refer me to a web-site? Do you have group meetings open to other parents?
seattle said…
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seattle said…
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seattle said…
Keith I wonder if the district didn't listen to organized parent groups last year, because those groups were lobbying to keep two strong HS music programs intact, rather than working to find ways for all comprehensive high schools to share the resources, and have viable, strong, music programs?

I'm not at all "alarmed" by Hale's upstart orchestra with 9 students in it. Rather I applaud and support the school for taking the first steps in moving toward a stronger music program! And I expect that it will grow and thrive with a bit of support.

Keith believes "the new status quo isn't serving many students", but I believe the old status quo served far fewer students. Only those kids that were lucky enough to live within a two mile radius of Roosevelt or Garfield, or who were in APP, could take advantage of the great orchestras that those two schools had to offer. That hardly seems equitable. All of the other aspiring musicians across the district had small or non existent orchestras in their neighborhood high schools. Not a great model.

Eventually (and I know it will take some time) the NSAP will even the playing field. Until then I can't get behind any type of resolution that continues to funnel students into two schools with high level orchestras unless all students across the district have access to those two schools.

SPS parents have had to deal with these inequities for far to long. It's time to move forward now.
keith said…

Please reconsider your judgment of my positions. My personal position is: The Seattle Public Schools do not have a well thought out plan to provide quality orchestra instruction. I have never advocated one particular orchestral arrangement. I have only advocated a well thought out plan and offered my own ideas and tried to share the ideas of others. I have worked and am working on improving this situation in all schools. My philosophy like yours is of equity for all. I did mention that the old system also did not work well. I am for change but I am also advocating for a well thought out plan involving quality instruction and shared resources. There seems to be many obstacles to overcome to achieve quality orchestra instruction and shared orchestra resources. Part of the NSAP involved encouraging parents participation in building programs after the plan was set in motion. I would have preferred plans be in place before implementing the NSAP. I am now participating in the building of programs as MGJ asked. I am also reporting on the activities of parents involved in the orchestra program at Eckstein Middle School, Roosevelt and Nathan Hale high schools. Loosely organized with no chosen leader, parents are trying their best to do what they can. The parents in these programs have offered their resources to other schools and are actively showing their good intentions. We are only parents with parent type resources doing what we feel as citizens is important. I ask for your encouragement. Enlighten those you have access to of the concern many have in this area. I can only imagine similar issues are frustrating other educational areas. Perhaps a process to solve this problem will be helpful in other areas.
SolvayGirl said…
Here are some of the issues that will need to be addressed to have Garfield/Roosevelt quality at ALL middle and high schools—especially those that serve higher ratios of low-income students:

• Music instruction from an early age. Many of the kids in the successful programs started some form of private music instruction well before 4th grade. Those that didn't had access from 4th grade on.

• Access to a decent-quality instrument. Loaner and rental instruments are notoriously inferior and can be very frustrating to a talented child—especially when they know they are playing the correct note, but it comes out wrong because of the quality of the instrument.

• Access to outside private lessons. Many of the G/R musicians take at least some lessons outside of school.

• Access to a place to practice and encouragement to do so. Let's face it—it's not fun listening to a novice string or clarinet player. Squeaks and blares can be annoying and possibly disturbing to a sleeping infant or a parent who works the night shift.

• A parent group that can fundraise for sheet music, transportation to and application fees for competitions, and "costumes" (have you priced a tuxedo shirt?) for those kids whose families can't just pony up $500-$1500.

And, just as in another thread where someone was talking about teacher quality in low-income schools, there are only so many fantastic orchestral music teachers around. Can Seattle really find 20-30 equitable teachers to spread around?

I applaud Keith and his group for working with the District, but it's going to take some parents who understand the issues faced by many of the schools with high FRL to come close to having equitable programs in all schools. What we really need is an instrumental music fairy to magically boost budgets and provide for those kids whose parents can't.
hschinske said…
I've always been under the impression that teaching positions in music are tough to get and attract many qualified applicants. But I will admit to having no particular data on the subject.

Helen Schinske
hschinske said…
What we really need is an instrumental music fairy to magically boost budgets and provide for those kids whose parents can't.

There are a couple of existing programs, such as Seattle Music Partners ( and Rotary Music4Life ( I think there's at least one other that I can't remember the name of, which focuses on less common instruments such as French horn.

Helen Schinske
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
Perhaps a committee could be formed with volunteers that are willing to:
1. Recruit professional musician volunteers to give lessons to children who cannot afford lessons. Perhaps people from Seattle Symphony, or retired UW music profs.
2. Contact the staff, faculty and students at UW and Cornish Music departments, ask for their involvement in helping the students in high poverty areas to have access to music program/training.
3. Ask for help from non-profits that have been working with FRL children and Title 1 schools, such as the Nature Consortium and Arts Corps.
4. There is an organization that provides free classical instruments to students from high FRL schools, I forgot what they are called, but I remember reading about their program on SPL Arts web page; someone with grant writing experience could apply for this for the schools.
5. Give talks at elementary schools and reach out to parents in other ways (newsletter, etc.) to stress the importance and benefits of music to their children's growth and development.
6. Create a peer mentoring program, where students who have been having lessons for many years can help the beginners, perhaps as part of their community service requirement.

I forgot to sign my post, so I'm reposting it since the unsigned post will probable get deleted

SPS mom
Anonymous said…
VH1 Save the Music Foundation - stresses importance of learning music. Provides free classical instruments to schools.

SPS parent

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