Seven years ago I started teaching choir and general music at Elkins Middle School. My yearly budget for all materials for the 600+ students I taught was $150. Considering choir music costs $3-$5 per sheet it did not take long for that money to go. I couldn’t even afford to buy one complete song for a single choir and I taught three choirs a day.
But the great injustice, I thought, came in general music. There was nothing. And by nothing I mean NOTHING. This may be the highest level music class a person ever gets to experience and there was not one instrument to experience it on.
One day I saw three trash cans that were being tossed out because they didn’t meet state trash can standards. I took them and turned them over, I cut some dowel rods for sticks, and I proceeded to teach rhythm reading with the only tools I could muster.
This shaped my whole philosophy of what I would invest in given the opportunity. The only thing you would ever find me purchasing if entrusted with public funds is something a student can put their hands on and learn from.
Now here we are, I started teaching at Jennings Randolph Elementary and the community has had enough faith in me to trust me with a $1500 budget per year for the last five years. I have never once even considered purchasing an item that a student could not learn from in a hands on-real time way.
There are guitars, banjos, and a mandolin for Appalachian heritage music. African drums to sync the brain and body for emotional balance. Glockenspiels to begin reading pitches and introduce a keyboard. Ukuleles and steel drums because they are awesome and every kid wishes they had the opportunity to learn them.
Without the levy who knows? Maybe I would have a class set of trash cans.
If you have a similar story I’d love to hear it.
If you have a similar story and would like to submit for publication please email us a story and photos to email@example.com.