By Robert Barron, Nanaimo Daily News February 25, 2010
With looming cuts of up to $3 million as the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district prepares its budget for 2010-11, efforts are being made to protect what's left of a once-mighty music program that spawned such local legends as Diana Krall and Allison Crowe.
Norman Mould, president of the Coalition for Music Education in B.C., said that in times of fiscal restraint, school trustees have increasingly limited options to choose from to balance their budgets.
But he told the district's decision-makers that cutting music programs further would be an "abrogation" of the central responsibility of those charged with delivering a "well-rounded" education. David Murchie, chairman of the district's business committee, said while it's still early in the budget process, he thinks it's unlikely that music programs will take any significant cuts in 2010-11.
"Music is not a frill, it's an important part of how we want our children to grow and mature," Mould said.
With cuts of about $10 million during the past decade to Nanaimo-Ladysmith's budget, the district has relied largely on laying off teachers and support workers to balance budgets, but that option is becoming increasingly limited as the district is mandated by Bill 33 which limits class sizes and compositions.
About 17 years ago, Nanaimo-Ladysmith had a district director for fine arts who co-ordinated music and other arts programs in schools but the position was eliminated because of budget constraints.
Band programs were also in place in all the district's elementary schools for Grade 6 and Grade 7 students, as well as a music program for all students in kindergarten through Grade 5, but they were also cut back at about the same time.
Band and music programs are still in place at the secondary level.
Elementary schools must still offer music programs but it's now left to each school to determine how they are provided.
Murchie said the fact that many secondary band classes far exceed normal class sizes (one concert band class in the district has 62 students) means the program helps subsidize some of the smaller course offerings in the high schools when class averages are taken into consideration.