Music Programs Receive Reprieve

Deni Adaniya    Student musicians from Encinal and Alameda high schools, Wood and Lincoln middle schools and the Academy of Alameda performed before the May 28 school board meeting as combined bands. The symphonic bands performed a Disco medley and “Crazy Train” while combined orchestras performed “Kojiki” and “Remember Me.” Their efforts drew the board’s attention to the importance of music education.

The Alameda Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously to maintain the music program at Encinal Junior & Senior High School (EJSHS) at its meeting May 28 at Island High School.

All five board members voted in favor of a plan that would sustain and possibly add to the music program at EJSHS, which was in danger of being drastically cut back. The plan will restore the beginning band and symphony orchestra electives. The beginning band elective is for sixth graders entering the school (the music program is a joint program for junior high and high school students). 

The plan will also add two after- school music clubs; a jazz/chorus club for sixth to 12th graders and an intermediate band club for seventh and eighth graders. Finally, the plan will add a guitar class if enough EJSHS students show an interest in the potential elective. Encinal Principal Daniel Hurst will conduct a further study to measure the student body’s interest.

If all classes are offered it will represent one full-time equivalent (FTE) position for a music director. Each elective (marching band, beginning band, symphony orchestra and guitar) represents .2 FTE. The two after-school clubs (jazz/chorus and intermediate band) represent .1 FTE. 

The school board will need to invest an extra $60,000 to execute the plan. The beginning band, symphony orchestra and guitar electives will cost $20,000 each. If the guitar class is not held the investment will be $40,000. The two after school programs will be funded by an existing grant allocated for after-school programs.

In 2017-18, the school board cut $2.8 million dollars in order to fund a raise for district employees, according to a report from Kirsten Zazo, Chief Student Support Officer for the district. The music programs at Alameda High School and EJSHS were expected to be impacted as a result. 

After learning of the potential cuts to the music programs, a grassroots coalition of students and parents from both high schools as well as Lincoln, Wood and the Academy of Alameda middle schools came together on Facebook and via word of mouth in April to form Alameda Bands Together (ABT). ABT helped AHS reinstate longtime music director Mitchell White and stabilize its music program. 

EJSHS needed to convince the school board that there was a large passion for the school’s music program among its students. Members of ABT and Hurst crafted a student survey to gauge interest in a revamped music program. They found that 195 students indicated that they would like to sign up for one of the music classes, according to the ABT survey, more than the District’s initial registration data that yielded a mere 81 students. The survey was just for current EJSHS students and the numbers may increase when incoming freshmen students are factored in.

“We are beyond thrilled with this outcome, and that music will be saved for all students at both of our schools,” said ABT co-founders Claudia Delgado, Tina O’Grady and Deni Adaniya. “Our coalition looks forward to engaging with all stakeholders in that work in the months to come.”

More than 200 Alameda students gathered at the May 28 meeting.