I am a freshman at Temple University, one of only of 12 students admitted to Temple's highly competitive Musical Theater program. I am also a proud member of the Columbia High School Class of 2010.
It is clear to me that the music and arts education training I received in the South Orange-Maplewood School District was key in helping me achieve admission to the Temple program.
With the budget process underway for 2011-2012 school year, it's important to me that my friends at CHS, as well as future students who come through the South Orange-Maplewood sistrict, have the best music and arts education possible. For many of us, music and arts education is a core curriculum subject.
The Music Program in the school district has had a profound effect on the direction my education and life has taken. I was part of the last 4th grade class in the district, 2001-2002, that had instrumental music training. After that year, instrumental training was cut for 4th graders, a cut that the school district still feels the effects of to this day.
By the time I entered Maplewood Middle School in Fall 2003, I had a year of playing the flute under my belt and the next three years enabled me to grow as a musician and enhanced my ability to read music. This would prove invaluable when I became interested in pursuing musical theater and vocal performance, especially when I needed to audition or learn a song for a show or concert.
At Columbia High School, I was fortunate to participate in the Chamber Choir (Excelsior Singers) for all four years. This is Columbia's choral group for advanced singers. As an underclassman, I was surrounded by more experienced vocalists, who afforded me the opportunity to learn from their experience. Between my choral teacher and the experienced upperclassmen, I was able to broaden my knowledge of all types of choral music and refine and improve my singing ability.
Through the CHS Music Program, I had the opportunity to perform in numerous choral adjucations, meet and work with choral directors from Penn State and Temple University, and perform in all four All School Musicals. I also auditioned for and was selected for the 2009 New Jersey All State Choir—one of only fifty Bass 1's in New Jersey to earn this honor. None of this would have been possible without the musical training I received in the South Orange-Maplewood School District.
Quite honestly, when I came to Columbia I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had started performing in school and community theater and loved Broadway, but had never been exposed to a dynamic choral program. Attending choral class everyday broadened my knowledge of music, culture and the humanities. It improved my vocal ability and performance exponentially. It provided me with the confidence to stand in front of an audience and express my feelings, thoughts and emotions.
Because of my arts education, I developed the ability to audition for and be accepted to highly competitive programs such as the Papermill Summer Musical Theater Conservatory. My arts education has also given me the opportunity to perform on stage at such venues as NJPAC and The Papermill Playhouse. All of these experiences have had a profound effect on the direction my life has taken.
It is important that the South Orange-Mapelwood School District continue to provide music and arts education to those students who have an interest in it. Every student does not pursue a purely academic track in college; in fact, quite a few of us pursue performing art and vocal programs. Even those who decide not to pursue a career in the arts benefit greatly by their training and experience in the arts.
I understand that we are facing extraordinarily difficult budget cuts, but I also understand that our music and arts programs are an essential part of South Orange-Maplewood's character and reputation. For quite a few of us, Performing Arts are as much of a core curriculum subject as Math or History. I urge the decision makers to keep this in mind.