Keep music in our Fayette schools


To the Fayette County Board of Education: I write as a concerned former Fayette County band student parent, a citizen, and a business owner in Fayette County. I understand you will be voting on a proposal to possibly eliminate fifth-grade band programs and all high school assistant band and orchestra director positions on April 15. I write to voice adamant opposition to what would be a near-sighted approach to fixing budget problems in the school system.

Music education is one of the most valuable tools available to parents, students and our society for providing training in the disciplined pursuit of performing extraordinarily complex tasks.

One piece of evidence to this is that a primarily engineering focused curriculum university such as Georgia Tech maintains a fierce loyalty and commitment to, yes, its music programs.

It is why hundreds of Georgia Tech students, pursuing non-music degrees, spend hours of time each week practicing music for very little college credit. It is why Tech provides multiple performing ensemble opportunities to undergraduate students and offers master’s and Ph.D. degrees in music disciplines.

One thing that should be noted is that the quality of education at the high school level, which ultimately prepares students for the process of a disciplined pursuit of extraordinarily complex tasks, begins at the lower grade levels.

Simply maintaining the fifth-grade programs that mean so much to this process is vital to this enriching experience.

Also, maintaining the multiple levels of support and instruction at the high school level must be protected with no loss of director jobs. Why, one might ask?

Nature Neuroscience magazine: “Students in high-quality school music education programs score higher on standardized tests compared to students in schools with deficient music education programs, regardless of the socioeconomic level of the community.”

From 2010, Scientific American: “Studies have shown that assiduous instrument training from an early age can help the brain to process sounds better, making it easier to stay focused when absorbing other subjects, from literature to tensor calculus. The musically adept are better able to concentrate on a biology lesson despite the racket in the classroom or, a few years later, to finish a call with a client when a colleague in the next cubicle starts screaming at an underling. They can attend to several things at once in the mental scratch pad called working memory, an essential skill in this era of multitasking.”

Students of the arts continue to outperform their non-arts peers on the SAT, according to reports by the College Entrance Examination Board. Data from the College Board, Profile of College-Bound Seniors National Reports from 2006–2010 show that students enrolled in fine arts courses score from 11 to 13 percent higher than students not enrolled in any fine arts courses.

Armed with studies and data such as these, one could make the case that high quality and consistent music training is the most important spoke in the well-rounded-education wheel.

Our Fayette County-based business of 15 years, SoundAround Audio/Video, LLC, provides services to the Georgia Music Educator’s Association, the fourth largest music education association in the U.S.

GMEA and their programs are held up to the national spotlight each year as beacons of excellence – Georgia is known nationwide as one of the best places to receive a good foundation in music education.

This has not happened with the wave of some magic wand. It occurs because communities in Georgia such as Fayette County have traditionally seen the wisdom in continuing to invest in music education. At SoundAround we are so committed to this proposition, that we offer four scholarships to worthy GMEA students heading into college. We put some of our very limited funds into growing the music education process.

I might also point out that our small business adds to the tax base for Fayette County, as will the tremendous new complex being designed now for our county that will be devoted to the visual and culinary arts by Rivers Rock and Pinewood Studios.

If I understand the long-term plans, this will also attract Savannah College of Arts and Design to our area and others to help Fayette County build its reputation around the globe for music and the arts.

In the many articles that have been written about this, the quality of Fayette County life is heralded as one of the largest contributing factors to the decision of building this complex here. Our schools providing superior, well-rounded educational experiences are an integral part of that equation, as I believe you will all agree.

I urge you not to remove even one brick from the structure of this wonderful local resource — a high quality music education program in our schools. High quality music education does come with a price, but it is a price that we must be prepared to pay for the instruction that is so vitally important to our students, our community, our culture and our society. Please say no to cutting our music and arts programs any further.

Jim Gauntt

SoundAround Audio/Video Recordings, LLC

Fayetteville, Ga.