LINDA TRAVIS: The strings are silenced

To the editor,

The strings of approximately $100,000 worth of violins, cellos, and basses in the orchestra room at the Chippewa Hills High School and Middle School complex may have been permanently silenced on Monday, June 10, after 50+ years of practice and performance excellence by many student musicians and their dedicated conductors.

In spite of giving the Chippewa Hills Orchestral Society (CHOS), a citizen developed non-profit organization, approval in September of 2012 to seek donations, plus grant and foundation funding to help pay for the re-instatement of the fifth- through 12th grade orchestra program, the Chippewa Hills Board of Education voted 5 to 1 to not approve funding, approximately $30,000, to add to the $27,000 already raised. Superintendent Shirley Howard cited the lack of anticipated student enrollment in orchestra for Fall Semester 2013, plus declining funding from the State as sufficient reasons to not re-instate the program.

During Public Comment at the end of the meeting, members of the CHOS stated their disappointment in the decision, citing the fact that CH Board members offered no discussion or questions when the CHOS made a formal proposal at the May 13th Board meeting. CHOS trustees also cited the lack of any reference to the student numbers that would be participating at the 5-8th grade levels. All fifth- through 12th-grade students are conveniently housed at the complex where the orchestra room and instruments are located. CHOS trustees reminded the CH Board members that the low high school enrollments for Fall 2013 were directly attributable to the graduation of orchestra members over the past three years with the contributing cancellations of the fifth- through 8th-grade developmental and feeder classes.

CHOS trustees reminded the Board that the decision to not re-instate the orchestra is a rejection of the $27,000 in donations that community members and businesses have made to save the program. We were puzzled that the Board could not find $30-$32,000 in a $20+ million budget to give the children on-going exposure to the fine arts. In addition, this vote likely will prevent the CHOS from continuing and achieving any success in grant writing and outreach to foundations.

This was a sad, silent night for a wonderful, slowly disappearing, 50+ year stringed tradition. CHOS trustees plan to regroup to determine whether any other options remain.

Linda Travis
CHOS Trustee

 

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