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Fighting Forte for Music in Duluth Schools

Updated: 02/12/2014 10:16 PM
Created: 02/12/2014 9:24 PM WDIO.com

Duluth Public Schools have a proud history of strong music programs, but some parents and a passionate private instructor feel that is slipping away. They spoke out at the district's community meeting on Wednesday night.

“Music is sometimes considered like the universal language,” Rianna Amberg said.

Amberg is an 8th grader at Holy Rosary, and she's fluent in music after years of clarinet and piano lessons. However, she's headed to Duluth East next year and worries about communicating with students there.

“I'm just wondering if it's going to turn out okay all these different levels of musicians,” Amberg said.

Her mother, Barbi Lee, said she has heard the music program at the Duluth schools is out of tune.

“I don't understand how you can have a band who doesn't have lessons, who don't do group practicing, and like actually be able to put on a concert,” Lee said.

Amberg's private instructor Janna Blomquist said cuts to the district's program have left teachers stretched thin over too many students.

“They can't just be thrown in a room with one band director and say, 'Here, here you go. Teach. Teach all these students.' Because the needs of a percussionist are very different than the needs of a clarinet player,” Blomquist said.

She said that one-on-one lessons have vanished due to the cuts, and teachers do not have time to properly train students on their instruments. Blomquist said students can stay on tempo with a little more help.

“We need to restore some of the personnel that we used to have to get these kids alone at least in a group of clarinets, a group of flutes,” Blomquist said.

She is not alone. Parents and other community members brought up the music program reductions at the district's Think Kids meeting at Lowell Elementary Wednesday night.

Superintendent Bill Gronseth said those concerns and others from meetings held at other schools will be factored into next year's budget.

“As the board continues to meet and talk about the budget and they finalize that budget in March all of this information will be part of those decisions,” Gronseth said.

Blomquist hopes to volunteer at Ordean-East Middle School in the meantime.

The district is looking for comments on any issue as part of the Think Kid's Initiative. If you can't make it to a meeting you can contact the administration online by clicking here.

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