Music Programs Promote, Validate Education Goals
By Richard Floyd
From: UIL Leaguer; November 1993
This article is based on the remarks Richard Floyd made to the Legislative Council, October 25.
In many ways this has been an outstanding year for our UIL Music Programs. Problems have been minimal and the new projects we initiated have been successful. In a time of supposedly “gloom and doom” we have experienced moderate growth overall in student participation. In 1993 we grew by 3900 students and over the past five years, participation has grown from 224,795 to 278,235 students – and increase of nearly 24 percent.
I am concerned that there has been a reduction in the number of full orchestras; however, some of this attrition can be attributed to the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult for students to find time in their schedule to be in both band and orchestra. The brightside of the equation is the fact that string orchestras have grown in number by 163, an amazing 80 percent, over the past five years. This healthy increase suggested that string programs in our schools are alive and well.
Many opponents to the alternating year State Marching Band Competition predicted that the every-other year format would curtail interest in marching competition and that fewer bands would participate. This has not been the case. In 1990, the last year of the traditional format with a state contest in every class, there were 778 high school bands beginning participation at the regional level.
In 1991 under the new format, there were 811 competing bands, and this past fall the number grew to 837. In short, interest is on the rise.
One of our greatest successes of the 1992-1993 school year was the restructuring of the Texas State Solo and Ensemble Contest. This year, for the first time, the event was divided between two sites. The change was necessitated by the fact that the contest has grown significantly in recent years. Last year there were more than 16,000 names on lines in the computer program that scheduled the contest. UT had reached grid-lock and there was simply no more rooms to accommodate any expansion of the contest. Consequently, we developed a format whereby the 4A and 5A schools remained at the University of Texas campus and the A, 2A and 3A schools were hosted by the music department at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. This arrangement turned out to be a “win-win” situation. Congestion was greatly reduced on the Austin campus, facilities were used more efficiently and scheduling problems were more easily accommodated. The small schools reported that they enjoyed the facilities at SWT, experienced fewer conflicts and felt that the net result was a more positive experience for their students.
UT officials were elated that overcrowding on this campus was greatly minimized and the administration at SWT was very pleased to have the opportunity to host these talented high school students on its campus. We took special precaution to make sure that the quality of judging was the same at both sites and the unanimous consensus of the surveys we did of all schools after the contest clearly indicated that everyone wanted to continue the two site concept. We plan to do so.
Another area of growth has been the State Wind Ensemble Contest. This event was established in 1976 but generated little interest for a number of years. In many years there would be fewer than five participating schools. In 1990, we revised the format to place more emphasis on evaluation and education rather than adjudication and ratings. We added two clinician commentators who alternated between groups to allow for personal interaction with the directors and students. The three judge panel was still retained to give ratings and determine outstanding performances in the traditional manner. This concept has met with overwhelming success to the extent that this year we had fifty schools submit entries for the 1993 contest. The attractions seems to be the opportunity to learn from and interact with outstanding, nationally recognized musicians and conductors, not just to come to Austin and try to win a contest. This growing interest has far exceeded our ability to accommodate everyone. A nice problem to have but still a very real problem. At some point we will probably come to you with some recommendations on how this event should be molded in the years to come.
In this session last year I stressed that our music programs, for the most part, were not contests in the purest sense of the word. Yes, we do determine champions in marching and sweepstakes trophies are given at the Texas State Solo and Ensemble Contest, but by and large our events exist primarily to provide a very effective way to evaluate the mastery of the essential elements in music and offer students and directors alike recommendations for continued development and growth. They are not contests just for the varsity or a select team. Instead they measure the musical literacy of most if not all music students. As such these events tend to be an extension of the entire music classroom even though they, unfortunately, are viewed to be extra-curricular at the present time.
During our music report today, you will consider the approval of a pilot project in sightreading. When you do so, please remember that the music contest program has the potential to shape and guide the educational priorities that take place in the music class room and the rehearsal hall. The proposal, developed through broad based input from throughout the state, is a carefully and thoughtfully crafted plan that hopefully will lead our directors to help students think more independently and make decisions and judgements on their own. Surely this is a worthy goal and one in which the UIL would want to take the lead.
In conclusion I would like to share a recent experience with you. This past year I was asked, by a national music publication, to prepare an article having to do with the band program in Rio Grande City. There are very few Smiths, Jones, or Davises in Rio Grande City. What you will find are a lot of Garzas, Cortinas, and Rodriguezes. As you may know, this is not an affluent community, many of the roads are unpaved and some houses do not have electricity. Yet the band program is outstanding and the pride of the community. The choir program is growing at an impressive rate as well.
As I began work on the article, I asked the students to share with me their thoughts about why music was important to them. Here’s what some of them said:
“Because of band I have been able to work on something I love, music. Participating in the music program has taught me what dedication is all about. Now when I’m interested in any task, I am able to dedicate myself to it.”
“Music is important to me because it shows me discipline and it makes me be responsible.”
“Band helps me pass all my classes and be a better person.”
“Band is important to me because it has shown me how to be responsible, how to react, and how to respect. Because of my experiences in band, I always want to achieve my goals and move forward.”
“Band is important to me because I not only learn about music, but I also learn to make friends and respect people. It is important to me because it gives me a feeling of security.”
“Music is important to me because it brings to me the satisfaction I need in my life.”
I could go on. I have in my possession about 150 similar comments. Think about what these students are saying. They are saying that music gives them:
- The ability to work towards a goal
- A sense of belonging
- Academic success
- And last, but certainly not least, Appreciation for the beauty in music
It is my hope the outcomes I just listed are essentially the outcomes our educational leaders and the public say our schools should be seeking. I also hope, through our UIL music programs, that we can encourage, promote and validate these expectations for the more than 278,000 students of Texas who participate in these programs.
"Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song." Psalms 95:2
"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music." Psalms 98:4