Plea from a young clarinetist: Please save the music

As we’ve discussed before, threatening music and arts programs is a surefire way to jolt public school parents into action. It’s not unusual for a school superintendent or school board looking for a tax increase to ominously predict an end to music and art.

While often an empty threat in the past, music programs will be eliminated as school districts face historic budget cuts.

While often an empty threat in the past, music programs are now being cut.

This time, it’s no pantomime to rile up parents.

It’s real. Music is being cut in some systems, including Fulton County.

Here’s a letter from a Fulton middle school student. She asked if I would share it with you:

My name is Rachel Smith, principal (first chair) clarinetist of the Georgia All State band.

I represent our state in its entirety as a musical powerhouse.  Clarinet is my passion; I someday aim to be a world-renowned clarinetist and impact society strongly.

I picked up the clarinet in the fourth grade.  At the time, it seemed like a whim, but I was unaware that I would practice so much and meet a plethora of people who also do what I love.

The musical experience I have had is a priceless passion that I share with my deepest friends.  Additionally, I have straight A’s and a balanced schedule.  Music is a door that I have opened at such a young age; I doubt I would have began at all as a sixth grader, due to the adjustment to middle school.

Band is a healthy experience that harvests friendship and undying love.  It also is the ultimate team sport; there are no benchwarmers.  Band can also keep kids out of trouble as they adjust to the changes in their young lives.  The door I have opened is one I will never exit, for I can testify for the everyday miracles by simply playing the instrument I would never leave.

But right now, who has the key?  Instrumental music is a powerful and sacred art that must be left alone to strive.  Don’t deprive the little kids of their outlets.

If Fulton County slaughters such a feat, what makes it so special from the other counties?  Opportunities such as these should not be stolen from tomorrow’s musicians, artists, scientists, doctors, etc.  Look at the facts.  And save our bands and orchestras, before you annihilate a new generation of artists.

Thank you for your time,

Rachel Smith, 8th grade

83 comments Add your comment

bootney farnsworth

March 29th, 2010
6:18 pm

I feel for her, I really do.
but where’s the money gonna come from?

Fulton is broke, and the morons who run it
couldn’t find water if they fell out of a
boat. even if the money were found, they’d
waste it on political & racial pork

bootney farnsworth

March 29th, 2010
6:20 pm

she needs to write to the heads of corporations, not the morons in fulton

March 29th, 2010
6:28 pm

Why is music always threatened to be cut? How is it any less important than other activities/subjects?

old teacher

March 29th, 2010
6:30 pm

Well witten. I, too, strongly support music in schools. Fulton should consider at least next year keeping the fifth grade program. Beginning band in 6th grade is what most counties do. For many years Clayton County schools had a strong band program and began in 6th grade.
Also, I strongly support school nurses. All schools should have a professional health care person in the school.
I think some administrative cuts could be made to satisfy the budget.

professional skeptic

March 29th, 2010
6:31 pm

I played in band for several years when I was in public school. I’m more than willing to pay additional tax so that Gerogia’s children can have the same educational opportunities that I did.

There should be an additional line item at the bottom of the Georgia tax return for people who wish to contribute more to education, as a work-around to obstructionist Conservative Georgia politicians who cackle with glee when given the chance to slash public school funding.

If we can contribute to wildlife funds and dog/cat sterilization funds on the GA tax return, why not public schools (or, for that matter public transportation)?


March 29th, 2010
6:39 pm

This state will not even step up and save the academic classes. They certainly will not save the arts classes. The idiotic leaders of this state will slash and burn education, but I bet you won’t see the sports programs cut. They are going to max out class room sizes, lay off employees, and cut programs. They just talk about being supporters of education, in reality they could care less as long as their own children are sitting pretty in private schools somewhere else.

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March 29th, 2010
7:15 pm

Linda, I was thinking today that we’ve heard very little from parents about furlough days, larger class sizes, or cutting academic programs, but if the sports programs were cut can you imagine the screams?


March 29th, 2010
7:32 pm

There is a petition you can sign! If you are a resident of Fulton Co and would like to help with this effort, PLEASE go to:


March 29th, 2010
7:39 pm

The Governor and Company are too damn busy trying to slam dunk the President that they cannot focus on the real issue! Hey Georgia, you voted for these idiots.

uberVU - social comments

March 29th, 2010
7:54 pm

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by csrock2138: Plea from a young clarinetist: Please save the music…

Orchestra and Football Booster

March 29th, 2010
7:59 pm

When I wrote to the Fulton County School board seeking relief for the elementary music programs, I asked the same question as…why is the music program always a target? Hasn’t the FCS board learned that the music programs are a valued part of the county education system? Why hasn’t the board told the superintendent to find the cuts elsewhere? Quite frankly, it’s because the music advocates raise hell and provide the board with political cover when it comes time to raise taxes. We should fight for the music programs and hold the board members accountable at election time…even if they finally acquiesce to our wishes.

However, the tit-for-tat comparison to sports programs is wrong and needs to be challenged. First, funding for music programs includes salaries for music teachers during the school day. Sports programs mostly use teachers that teach other subjects and disciplines during the school day. Thus, cutting sports programs does not impact a school’s operating budget in the same way.

Any additional coaching stipend or salary for the sports activity comes from a budget that is often (not always) self funded by football and basketball revenue. The comparison is apples and oranges. Don’t use a bad whine to distract from a legitimate concern about the terrible cuts to our elementary music programs.

Ole Guy

March 29th, 2010
8:01 pm

We have probably all, at one time or another, seen the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus”, excellently played by the venerable Richard Dryfus and cast. The lifelong impact of extracurriculars, music among them, cannot be over-estimated, particularly during the current times when (trusted) officials must make critical fiscal decisions.

Surely, these officials, “go-fish Sonney” among them, can learn the meaning of prioritization when they handle Other Peoples’ Money. As far as I’m concerned, one fails…they all fail. The entire, I repeat, THE ENTIRE legislative body needs to be replaced. What with the on-going pork (that which the public is aware of), there is no doubt that the money does indeed exist. We simply have lawmakers and leaders with no political spine and the most blatant self-serving agendas.

To Rachel, and to all young aspiring musicians, Godspeed! Never lose your gift.

Bell Curve

March 29th, 2010
8:09 pm

I truly believe that if the people of Georgia could vote for an extra penny sales tax to go for education the vote would easily carry. Our legislature will not even consider such a measure because it conflicts with what they really want, which is to destroy public education in this state. They go on and on about politicians doing what their constituents want, but they don’t really mean it. Too bad we are not a progressive enough state to allow for the public to place referendums on the ballot.

Gwinnett Parent

March 29th, 2010
8:12 pm

It’s really hard to feel sympathy for elementary school band when my own county does not have such a luxury. My child’s elementary school does not offer orchestra and she will have to wait until middle school for band to begin. That’s life! If a parent feels strongly about music at an early age, pay for music lessons like the rest of us. Perhaps the students could do some fundraising or like minded parents could gather some money. Unfortunately Fulton County does not have the funds to support elementary school orchestra/band and they do not need anymore taxes.


March 29th, 2010
8:22 pm

Ole Guy, “The entire, I repeat, THE ENTIRE legislative body needs to be replaced.”

Can’t be said often enough.


March 29th, 2010
8:25 pm

I implore the Ga legislature to consider implementing a commercial tax to supplement the loss of income due to the forclosure rate or a penny to the gallon tax…something, anything! Our schools need strong teachers and programs for the future of our students. Pay now or pay later.


March 29th, 2010
8:25 pm

@Old Guy love your post, but I must the correction that music is not extra curricular but co-curricular. Band, orchestra, chorus, general music, music theory all have state standards.

I started music in the 3rd grade in Atlanta Public Schools. My experience in violin and chorus at the elementary level created a life long love of music, so much so that I majored in music. It is a travesty that Fulton County doesn’t value the music program. This isn’t the first time they have attempted to end the elementary band and orchestra program; they tried about 4 years ago. Parents and teachers rallied to keep the programs in the schools. We must do the same this year. Schools have a responsibility to teach the whole child.

Board members should visit Sandtown Middle School and hear their band and orchestra. Truly they rank as one of the best in the state. Superior ratings at Large Group Performance Evaluation is standard. This is due to the magnificent program at Randolph Elementary and other feeder schools. How can they possibly consider ending these phenomenal programs?! The middle schools programs will definitely suffer.

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DeKalb mom

March 29th, 2010
8:31 pm

DeKalb cut music, art, etc. a long time ago. This is just the start. They’ll keep cutting until we get rid of those in charge…

Note that amidst this budget crisis our fearless leaders in the state passed a bill mandating that our children learn about the GA state flag and the Pledge of Allegiance. You can’t make this stuff up!?! That’s what they think is important! Of course, there won’t be any teachers left to teach this stuff…

Values the arts

March 29th, 2010
9:04 pm

The value in music education is that the student can learn music for the sake of music, but at the same time, learn social studies (role of music in history), science (the production of sound), reading (fluency, and lyric reading), and math (fractions, fractions, fractions!) The child uses both left and right sides of the brain, which has direct connections to academic performance. Research demonstrates this over and over, yet it is the first discipline to be cut. Please save music in our schools.


March 29th, 2010
9:08 pm

You won’t see them cutting the school admin. board either with their 6 figure salaries. I always thought there were way too many chiefs & too many underpaid indians. Oh well, there’s always sports…

Hope and change

March 29th, 2010
9:09 pm

Tell her to contact Rahm Emanuel—she can beg for a bailout, but it may be tough to get, as Rahm’s on the phone with AIG, GM and some investment banks who want more billions first! Those execs need to get paid—houses in the Hamptons are expensive to upkeep!!!!


March 29th, 2010
9:16 pm

Gwinnett parent – please note that a LOT of Fulton parents bought property in Fulton to get away from your inferior music programs. You should do the same and quite calling it a luxury! A lot of the rest of the country have elementary instrumental programs. It’s not a luxury, it’s a sign of a good program that has been in the top 100 music ed. programs for the last ten years. Your system just went the cheap route and it’s sad for your kids.

Maintain Man

March 29th, 2010
9:24 pm

fultonschoolsparent, then I can’t say much for you either, especially if you moved to Fulton because someone else didn’t have an elementary school band program. I’ll take my good schools, with an “inferior” elementary music program over Fulton’s inferior schools, and “good” elementary music program any day. BTW, your condescention makes you look inferior.

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Annie W

March 29th, 2010
9:42 pm

I graduated from Cobb County Schools last year. I was a violinist in my high school orchestra for 4 years, and I can attest that orchestra exerted an indelible influence over my life. It introduced me to other students and showed me that music serves as a bridge between people of all stripes. When listening to a Beethoven symphony, the world seems to stop, and for a moment, you understand what it means to be human.

That being said, I cannot ignore that music is a luxury. As a college student, my musical education has done little to help me write a paper, and certainly when applying to internships, my future employers were more interested in my GPA and responsibility than the number of octaves I could play. When push comes to shove, students need to learn reading, writing, and mathematics more than they do music. While I’m sad that future students will be deprived of opportunities afforded to me, the fact is that musical education is a privilege, not a right.

(This post assumes that Fulton County School Systems are efficiently budgeting the money they currently have. It seems quite plausible that cuts to music education are the result of efficiency rather than necessity.)


March 29th, 2010
9:49 pm

You should have been in my music class as my students write papers and essays all the time.

just wondering

March 29th, 2010
10:02 pm

If Fulton cutting music from the curriculum or band which is an extracurricular activity? I think bands should be an extracurricular activity, with money raised by the students and others who want to support the program – to pay for the instrument, the teachers, music, transportation, etc. Music as a part of a curriculum should be preserved for all students to learn to appreciate music.


March 29th, 2010
10:27 pm

Why don’t they start looking at the actual counties, speech path, audiologist, etc. under the new Obama universal health care plans won’t you be able to just go these specialist at the doctor’s office??? Why have them working for the school board now??? Don’t cut actual learning. These are health care services.


March 29th, 2010
10:30 pm

It is a proven fact that your strongest students are band students. Music students are usally outstanding math students. Georgia can’t afford to lower math score.

Apologies in advance

March 29th, 2010
10:35 pm

I know you mean well Annie W but:

“(This post assumes that Fulton County School Systems are efficiently budgeting the money they currently have. It seems quite plausible that cuts to music education are the result of efficiency rather than necessity.)”


bootney farnsworth

March 29th, 2010
10:54 pm

where’s the money gonna come from?

do you really think any additional income will
be spent correctly? or would get anywhere near
the arts?


March 29th, 2010
11:05 pm

5 years from now: “Let’s face it, art classes are a luxury we just can’t afford in these tough economic times. I say let’s make it an extra-curricular activity. That should be good enough.”

10 years from now: “It’s a sad truth, but we simply don’t have the money to fund science classes for our children. If parents want their children to study science, they can always send them to private after-school science classes.”

20 years from now: “It’s a shame we have to cut foreign language programs from middle and high schools, but the budget shortfalls demand it.”

Ole Guy

March 30th, 2010
12:01 am

RJ, I stand corrected. My poor choice of descriptives in no way whatsoever is intended to diminish the importance of music. I have watched my neighbor’s little girl, from days old to her current early teen years, as she has had the opportunity to embrace both art and science of music. To have the privilege of attending her recitals is both a high point of entertainment, and, more importantly, a first-hand view of youth developing to their max potential. Thanks for your comments, RJ.

Farnsy, Curve, and many others…I would not advocate any tax increase whatsoever. #1: Our legislative clowns cannot be trusted to apply more than a minor percent of any additional monies to the purpose intended. They would, as they have so-aptly demonstrated, funnel needed funding into their own little pig pots…which dovetails into #2: We need to demand that these clowns relinquish public monies which they have earmarked for their own narrow agendas. In effect, they, and that includes Sonney Boy, have pilfered these funds which belong to the people of Georgia. If we simply adopt additional tax revenues, we are, in effect, approving the pork-bound allocation of public monies.

CA Civility

March 30th, 2010
12:10 am

Most States are financially in a terrible shape, but states and their residents also have to prioritize what they are willing to spend money on.People may not want o pay more in
taxes formally,but many have decided to pay more informally through playing the lottery.

ATLANTA – The Georgia Lottery Corp. today announced record first-half profits for education. Georgia Lottery profits for the first half of fiscal year 2010 totaled $429,754,000, surpassing the previous record set last fiscal year by more than $8.49 million.

I hope many districts find the money to maintain at least some of classes in the arts.

Ted Lane

March 30th, 2010
1:12 am

This needs to go the the people that don’t even go to the concerts anymore and support music. Look at the concert halls, they are empty. Even concerts that are FREE. Members of Symphony orchestras that don’t even go to hear there colleagues perform. Music Majors that don’t even go to concerts at their schools to hear their friends perform unless it is required.

Yes we complain about music being cut. This is bad. But lets really get to the matter at hand. Do we ALL REALLY WANT IT, some do, like this little girl, I do. But come on. There are a vast majority out there that don’t. Again, look at the concert halls. They are empty. Where are the people. At home on the computer looking at uTube, Watching TV, Surfing the Web……etc…….
I attend live concerts quite often….I support music in the schools…I LOVE THIS LITTLE GIRLS LETTER….




free market educator

March 30th, 2010
3:26 am

The economy must be dire. Those fine “Northern” government schools are giving their teachers the “heave-ho”, just like the ignorant South. I guess it’s every wage earner for himself. I wonder if Rachel can play Taps on her clarinet?

Ole Guy

March 30th, 2010
5:38 am

Annie, never underestimate the long-term value of your musical talents. True, it can probably be stated that the art…the love…of music has no direct correlation to the mastery of higher level math, and effective means of expression. However, the discipline; the focus and dedication acquired and developed through music will surely follow you in all that you undertake.

Good luck in your collegiate endeavors, Annie.

Gwinnett Parent

March 30th, 2010
8:59 am

Fulton School Parent-My daughter appreciates music and has been taking piano since the age of 5. She knows how to site read as well as play by ear. However, I pay for her classes on my own dime and not on the back of taxpayers. Her private lessons from a teacher, with a master’s degree in music are more than adequate. At least my neighbor is not paying for her lessons. I do not expect my daughter to be in a band or orchestra until middle school. If some parents in my area want to organize a fee based program in my area, I might be interested. However, a full blown orchestra, funded by taxpayers for elementary school children is a luxury. Fulton County needs to save class size and save the core teachers before funding extra-curriculars. Taxpayers are not a bottomless pit of funds. Take an econ class.


March 30th, 2010
9:40 am

You cannot trust the legislature to spend any money raised for the purpose intended. They famously use the majority of the money raised for those specialty tags (wildlife, etc) for other purposed. Remember, pork is always the money wasted by the other party. As a country, we have already outsourced our economy to others to boost corporate profits, do you really think those in government, both parties being co-conspirators, to do anything that doesn’t benefit their corproate benefactors? Govenment is a jobs program, and they will do anything to keep their jobs, especially in this economy, The voters and their kids aren’t anywhere at the top of the list because they know that if they tell people wha they want to hear, they will keep them in place. If the doctor tells you you’re terminally ill, one would hope you’d get a second opinion, but when it comes to people who control so much of our lives, and take our money to boot, people swallow what they say hook, line, and sinker, no questions asked. It’s easier to stay in power by pretending things are fine, than tell the truth and make some tough decisions and take your lumps, BEFORE, things hit crisis levels. Take it out on the kids, they don’t vote, so you’re safe!

Midwest transplant

March 30th, 2010
9:54 am

I moved to ATL from the Midwest and have been amazed by how horrible the schools are here!
I live/work in Gwinnett which in my opinion in WAY overrated due to the political garbldygook spewing from the politicians, and school administrators. Much of this is due to the conservative republican attitudes towards teachers and education in this part of the country. Sadly, it seems public education in Georgia is doomed to extinction. The majority of school systems in the Midwest begin band and/or orchestra in grades 3 or 4. No wonder Georgia is ranked near the bottom! I am saddened to hear of the loss of Fulton County’s elementary band and orchestra programs.


March 30th, 2010
10:16 am

Ted, yes we all really want it. Imagine a world without music. Not sure where you live but the symphony in Atlanta is consistently full as well as other venues throughout the city for all types of music. Vast majority don’t want it?? Based on what?? Your opinion? Please.


March 30th, 2010
10:19 am

@Ted, I was fortunate enough to be able to see the Atlanta Opera perform Aida recently. It was sold out! I understand your point, however musicians are needed for pop concerts, churches, wedddings, funerals, local bars, etc. I agree with you 100% that principals have no idea how motivational music can be to a student. It certainly kept me busy and out of trouble.


March 30th, 2010
10:30 am

Gwinnett Parent sounds more like East Snobb parent… “I don’t have it, so you shouldn’t either”

I. My. Mine. Me.


March 30th, 2010
10:59 am

@Gwinnett, being a part of an elementary orchestra or band is far from a luxury, it’s a right. Students have a right to expect to receive an education that is well-rounded. I started orchestra in 3rd grade, however I began PRIVATE piano at 5. I was also a part of the chorus. Ultimately I became a voice major with a minor in piano. This was only because I wasn’t able to take both chorus and orchestra in middle school, so in 8th grade I switched. My experiences in music helped me to become the person I am today. I can name several well-known artists that were my classmates. Music had a huge impact on our lives. In your world, all kids would learn how to do is pass a standardized test. I have never done an algebraic equation or geometric proof outside of class. So, is it really necessary? Sounds ridiculous right? The same reasons we give for forcing students to take advanced math and science are the same reasons students should have music classes…higher order thinking skills.


March 30th, 2010
11:00 am


March 30th, 2010
11:14 am

I have no problem with the school systems cutting music programs or any other programs that are not ‘essential’ to give children education. The belief that the government owes any child a music program is humorous at best. I think that if the kids and parents want a music program, then they should pay for it. The government is broken, we can point blame on pork spending or whatever but the bottom line is that it is broken. The essentials for education should be math, reading, spelling, grammar, history and science. Music and sports should be offered IF there is enough money to pay for it. If I want my child to be a great tennis player, the school/government doesn’t pay for his lessons, I do. If you want your child to be the next Yo Yo Ma, then step up and foot the bill, because if your childs goes on to become rich and famous, then you certainly are not going to pay the school back for the money that was allocated for the music program.
Oh by the way, yes I have children that went to public school, but I never assumed that they were owed anything beyond their core classes.

The Cynical White Boy

March 30th, 2010
11:15 am

The problem, as I see it, is that Oblah-blah apparently has not received enough contributions from enough musician’s unions.

If only there were a union for school music programs, Oblah-blah would have declared by now that every citizen (and illegal alien) had a fundamental right to music from cradle to grave. We would see a multi-billion or trillion or zillion dollar bill for Obama-Music working it’s way through our wonderful Congress.


March 30th, 2010
11:17 am

Rob, being in an orchestra won’t make you the next Yo Yo Ma sweetie. How is that possible when the band teacher has 79 other students to teach. Private lessons, dedication and talent will make you the next Yo Yo Ma.