This is an item from Bill Crow’s The Band Room column in the April issue of Allegro, the newspaper of New York Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians. We use it with Mr. Crow’s permission.
In the little town in Washington State where I grew up, our local school system had a full arts program. It was the 1930s, as this country struggled with the joblessness and poverty of the Great Depression. From grade school to high school, we had art and music classes in the regular curriculum. We had band, orchestra, and chorus. We sang in the classrooms. Parents provided the smaller instruments for band and orchestra, and the school provided the larger ones. The marching band had uniforms. There were tympani and basses for the orchestra and sousaphones for the band. I played a school-owned baritone horn until I reached high school, when an after-school job made it possible for me to buy one of my own. The school provided a drum set and arrangements for the swing band.
When I hear of all the cuts made in the arts in urban school systems nowadays, I wonder how our small town was able to carry such a full program during the Depression. Did we value the creative arts then more than we do now? Shouldn’t every child have a chance to learn to make his own music?
If you know who makes school budget decisions where you live, see that they read Bill’s plea. If you don’t know, give serious consideration to finding out. They, and we—all of us—should be ashamed.