Hi Pete – I was one of several music parents that signed a letter to the editor that appeared in the paper today. But for some reason, this fact: that 1/3 to 1/2 of Dale Street music students are missing from ensembles, was removed from the letter prior to publication (real data exists to back the statement up). Members of our Medfield community need to know how that the Dale Street music program – which feeds into our award-winning Blake and MHS music program — has already been negatively impacted by the pilot that was hastily rolled out this year. If the rate of music students missing from Dale Street ensembles continues, the future of our award-winning Medfield Music Program is at risk. If you can help with setting the record straight, I’d appreciate it. Thanks, Chris McCue Potts
Preserving our musical legacy – a letter to the editor:
Since the days of Lowell Mason, the father of music education born in Medfield, generations of music educators, performers and professionals have followed him and called Medfield home.
In addition to our award-winning school ensembles, today Medfield has alumni and residents associated with prominent institutions like Metropolitan Opera, American Repertory Theater, Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Boston Conservatory, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory and Boston Ballet.
One can compare Medfield’s rich musical legacy to a historically significant home that needs to be protected from neglect so that it continues to contribute to town pride and character. But that’s easier said than done. Our music program was decimated about 25 years ago after music was pulled out of the school day – to the point that our MHS marching band had just 18 students (vs. 70 today). It took a Herculean effort to put music back in the school day, followed by 12-15 years of teacher dedication, volunteer efforts and community fundraising to restore the program to an acceptable level.
It’s not coincidental that Medfield’s high academic rankings and musical success have been on parallel paths since the full rollout of MCAS in 1999. The combination of strong academics, the arts, athletics, citizenship and cultural initiatives, has been providing the well-rounded education that families want, and is sought after by top colleges and employers.
But surprisingly, history is beginning to repeat itself. This past September, a pilot was launched under the radar that pulled 4th and 5th grade band, chorus and orchestra ensembles out of the school day impacting more than 320 children. The students now need to show up at 7:30 a.m. 1-2x a week placing a burden on many children and parents. On any given day, 1/2 to 1/3 of students are missing from their ensembles, and many children have dropped out entirely from the music program because of the early-morning start.
If Medfield continues to lose music students at the current accelerated rate, five years from now we will not have a sufficient number of children in the program to justify current levels of staffing, and future generations will be deprived of all the benefits that a Medfield music education now provides. Parents who only have elementary school-aged children (or younger) don’t know what’s truly at stake.
We know from research and alumni feedback that ensemble practices give children a greater sense of acceptance and community, help to relieve stress, teach students critical thinking, and improve students’ ability to focus and retain information. The ensembles also allow students to see that music could be a serious endeavor – even something they might pursue professionally one day – just like Lowell Mason, and everyone else who has followed after him.
A Boston College emeritus professor and three consultants (all associated with Sudbury schools) have been hired to conduct an evaluation of the Dale Street music pilot at a cost of $6,000, but the evaluation plan does not include capturing input from the community at large.
Town leaders, long-time residents, veterans, realtors, and many others have all said that the Medfield Music Program is a source of great community pride, yet it will continue to decay if something isn’t done soon to address the loss of student participation from music ensembles. Please join us in helping to protect Medfield’s rich music heritage at the very place where it takes root: Dale Street School.
The easiest way to voice your support is by sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 20 and it will be forwarded to school administrators, staff and consultants involved with evaluating the music pilot.
Medfield Music Parents:
Chris McCue Potts