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Singing the praises of music in schools

Despite budget woes, district works to keep music education alive
By: Teresa O'Hanlon, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Justin Gilsdorf has recently finished touring as an Honor Band musician from Granite Oaks Middle School. The eighth-grade tuba and trumpet player visited every corner of Rocklin sharing his musical art and craft with newfound fans. “We went around to all the elementary schools in Rocklin so the younger kids would know if they wanted to join band when they get to middle school,” said 14-year-old Gilsdorf. “It’s a great experience.” Gilsdorf plays with an advanced group of musicians – performers who persevere through daily practices at dawn; students who know a future in music is more than just a dream. “Some of these kids use music as their stepping stone for their academic career and I think a lot of times music is put on the back burner and not recognized as important as football or basketball,” said Justin’s mom, Kristin Gilsdorf. “It takes as much dedication to play music as it does to do a sport and I think it’s really important that it becomes recognized as an equal.” More than 1,400 students take part in Rocklin Unified music programs such as marching band, jazz band, orchestra and choir. Despite a volatile school budget that led the Rocklin Unified School Board to cut out fourth-grade instrumental music for the 2010-11 school year, the fifth- and sixth-grade instrumental music programs are safe through the 2011-12 school year. “I think music has become part of our culture here in Rocklin and our parents, our school board, our administrators and our teachers value music education,” said Mary Dick, music teacher at Granite Oaks Middle School, who is grateful the school board saved fifth- and sixth-grade instrumental music. “They had talked about basically eliminating all elementary instrumental music and starting the program at middle school, which would be really quite devastating all the way up through high school because you’ve got to start young to get them prepared for middle school and high school.” Three Rocklin High School students: Jake Asaro, Lauren Goette and Madi Crossland, have earned spots in this year’s California All-State Honor Choir, a select group of the highest-ranking high school singers in the state. Proving music is their passion, Asaro will attend CSU Long Beach in the fall on a full scholarship to study choral music education, Goette is invited to perform at the State Solo and Ensemble Festival, and Crossland can’t wait for her first All-State performance. “It’s so cool that people will come from all over the state to hear us sing,” Crossland said. All-State Honor Choir will perform at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 2 at the Sacramento Convention Center and is free to the public. Rocklin Unified School District Trustee Wendy Lang said the district could pride itself on the variety of music programs offered when so many schools are cutting out music and performing arts. “When you look at the numbers, I would love to see more parents having their children just try music in the fifth grade because the numbers are not that high, but the quality of the program is just so great,” Lang said. “You never know when a child is going to take off in an area. They blossom; they’re excited; they’re passionate about something. If we don’t expose these kids in elementary school, how are we ever going to know unless parents give them private lessons and in these times there are many people who can’t afford private lessons.” When Kym Rash-Newell enrolled her sixth-grader, Anya, in the music program at Antelope Creek Elementary, she saw a whole new world open for her daughter. “I’m so thankful,” Kym Rash-Newell said. “We were so glad Anya focused on music because she’s good at it and I wouldn’t have known.” Anya Rash-Newell, 12, said playing the flute with her friends at school gives her a welcome break from serious seatwork. “Band is a lot of fun for me and you definitely learn new things about your instrument and eventually you can learn to play cool songs that you really enjoy,” she said. --------------- California All-State Honor Choir Performance Open to the public – No tickets required When: 3 p.m. Saturday, April 2 Where: Sacramento Convention Center, Community Center Theater at 13th and L streets Why: Come out and enjoy a free concert by the highest-ranking choral singers in the state including Rocklin High students Jake Asaro, Lauren Goette and Madi Crossland