Testimony of David Hattner to the School Board of the Beaverton School District on June 18, 2012
As the conductor of the Portland Youth Philharmonic, It is my privilege to lead an orchestra of accomplished, serious young musicians from all over the metropolitan area. Of our 300 musicians, 10% or more every year are Beaverton School District students. I want to talk to you today about prioritizing music education for *all* Beaverton students. I see music education as an investment not only in the quality of the education you provide the students in Beaverton, but in the future of our community as a whole.
As far back as anyone can remember, 100% of the musicians in the Portland Youth Philharmonic graduate from high school and attend college. I believe that if you were to study statistics from the Beaverton district you would discover that the students who perform music as part of their education have higher grades and test scores as well as graduate at a higher rate than the district average. I am certain that you will find better attendance records and far better disciplinary records among the musicians in your district.
If all of you could follow the progress of a child who studies music in a serious way, you would believe, as I do, that music should be considered a core subject. Music is not taught to create professional musicians. As PYPs founding conductor Jacques Gershkovich once said: “I don’t teach music, I teach children and I use music to do it.” The comprehensive set of physical and intellectual activities required to perform music well stretches all areas of a young mind. Simultaneously, he or she must read, act, count, listen, analyze, criticize and FEEL. . .and continue this all-intensive focus for hours at a time. We hear a lot these days about how education was better in previous generations. The process of learning to play a musical instrument has hardly changed in 100 years. Music education is the closest thing to a time-tested educational value still available to our students today.
PYP has a long tradition of being actively involved in the Portland area’s school musical community. For generations, PYP musicians have been leaders in their school ensembles. Musicians from our training ensembles visit schools throughout the region. Our two symphony orchestras perform for nearly 10,000 young people each year at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Over 40 double bass players received free instruction with us this year. PYP musicians give inexpensive lessons to beginning players of all instruments through the peer mentor program. We do these things to share the infectious enthusiasm that music brings to PYP with anyone willing to ask.
We at PYP are indebted to all school music programs for helping to start so many of the musicians who ultimately perform with us. Our fates are deeply intertwined. PYP and other such extracurricular activities can be at most adjunct to a consistent, thorough program of music education and participation that only in-school music teachers can provide.
A comprehensive music program takes years to build. Cutting music education and thus leaving contact time far below the national standard, is as good as a death blow to music in your schools. The overall education of every student in every elementary and middle school in the Beaverton District will suffer. High school ensembles will suffer, and PYP will suffer, as fewer and fewer children are exposed to music at an age when they still have their full developmental potential. I have been told that viable alternatives exist. On behalf of the board, staff and musicians of the Portland Youth Philharmonic, I urge you to consider this issue carefully. I believe if you could observe the students from Beaverton in their school ensembles as well as those who perform with PYP, you would understand that the opportunity to study music in school is a precious thing, to be preserved and defended at all costs.
Thank you for your time.