Sunday, May 6, 2012

Kernan Middle School Band

Four years ago, Kernan Middle School was stripped of its music program.  KMS is my feeder school and that news was heartbreaking for me.  When you build a musical foundation in a child during their formative years and send them off to middle school, your hope is that they will choose to continue their music studies during their adolescent years.  If there are no options for them to do so, you lose an entire generation of potential band, chorus and orchestra students.  There is no time to teach beginning band, chorus and orchestra at the high school level.  The students must enter 9th grade prepared to further their studies, not initiate them.

My teacher certification in the State of Florida is K-12, which means I can legally teach music courses in any of these grade levels and any of these disciplines.  I am certified to teach general music, band, chorus and orchestra, however, I do not feel I am qualified to teach in several of these disciplines.  If a principal chooses to remove a program from its offerings, the ramifications of his/her decision are felt for years to come.  This is analogous to removing pre-algebra, algebra 1 and algebra 2 from the middle school curriculum and expecting the student to be able to perform on grade-level without the prerequisite coursework in math when he reaches high school.  It is ludicrous to think a student can be successful without the proper preparation during the middle years in academics, elective courses (art and music) and sports.

Four years ago, this principal's decision to remove course offerings in music education at KMS became my personal crusade to get them re-instated with the new principal.  I worked tirelessly for three years.  Every time a former parent of mine e-mailed or called me asking why there was no music program for their child, I asked them to contact the principal.  I conversed with music supervisors at the district level.  I met with the current principal on several occasions.  I talked with band directors, teachers, students - you name it - and the results were astounding!

After three years of silence in the band room, the newly re-instated Kernan Middle School Band and Jazz Band came to my school to perform yesterday as part of our Cultural Arts Week.  I had the privilege of hosting their very first road trip and it was a huge success! The tireless efforts of their director, Mr. James Justice, their principal Ms. Kathy Kassees and the parents of 55 band members culminated in a concert that was artistically and musically better than any beginning band concert I had ever attended.  As I listened to the group rehearse prior to the concert, I was overcome by emotion and began to weep.  The tears were unstoppable as I listened to their sound and watched the professional behavior of these students.  A majority of these students were my former students and it was a magical musical moment for me.  I don't always get to experience the "fruit of my labor" and it was evident that the new program at the middle school has been a worthwhile investment in the lives of our children.

On Tuesday, May 8th, I will be present at their spring concert to show my support.  My heart is full today because of what I experienced yesterday with these students.  Bravissimo, Mr. Justice! Bravissimo!

Kernan Middle School Band 2011-12

Singing "I've Got Rhythm" with the Jazz Band
Until next time...