Propose Changes to Music Program

Posted on 12 February 2009

A music consultant hired last fall by the Sag Harbor School District gave his report and recommendations for both the elementary and middle/high school music programs on Monday.

Although he worked in many music departments of various schools across Long Island and the state, this was the first time Craig Von Bargen has acted as a music consultant, upon recommendation of district superintendent Dr. John Gratto. Von Bargen studied both the elementary school and high school for approximately four months. He complimented the district on many things related to their music program, but also gave some suggestions for the community to consider.

While Von Bargen said that he was “impressed by the professionalism of staff and administrators,” and thought the morning program was a “joy to behold,” he did make some recommendations including prohibiting the use of a tablature for the elementary guitar class.

The tablature is quicker and easier to understand than traditional note reading. Von Bargen argued that the children should be exposed solely to note reading, because if given the option, “they will most likely always choose tablature.”

Another of Von Bargen’s recommendations was to have both the music department of the elementary school and the music department of the middle/high school meet regularly to increase communication between the schools.

Von Bargen also had some recommendations about the Suzuki violin program, which is offered at the elementary school for students in kindergarten through third grade.

The consultant said that the program should not be called Suzuki, to avoid confusion, because that program is usually a one-on-one lesson. He added that the class sizes for violinists in the elementary school should be reduced from 18 to nine.

Elementary School Principal Joan Frisicano explained that while the teachers attended training for violin, the program was developed to not only teach the instrument, but for the “benefits that playing has on other areas of learning and brain development.”

When the students reach fourth grade, she said, they can select an instrument of choice.

Currently only the elementary school has an orchestra and Von Bargen would like to see the orchestra continue into the middle and high school. Other suggestions for Pierson include adding music everyday, instead of every other day, and the creation of a guitar club.

After his presentation, board of education member Susan Kinsella asked if the district should consider combining the band and the orchestra to have a symphony. Von Bargen argued that it is unusual, because those students that play string instruments will most likely get frustrated by the overpowering sound of the band instruments. Further, he said that, “musically there is nothing that is written for a whole band with a lot of strings.”

In a document that he gave to board members, Von Bargen suggested that the district implement changes that would have no additional cost to the district right away. Other changes that would impact the budget could be added over a two-year time period.

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