Band family rallies around WhitePublished 8:56pm Wednesday, April 18, 2012
A hundred people clad in white, many instrumental music students inspired by his teaching and band parents, packed the special school board meeting Tuesday evening trying to spare Co-Director Spencer White from the budget ax.
About the only person not dressed in white for White, from T-shirts to trombonist Cayla Haney’s wristband and the cloak draping Haley First’s shoulders, was Noah Neuerburg, dressed head to toe in black because he came straight from the jazz band festival Dowagiac hosted.
“Marching band is a sport,” argued the freshman, who credits White for giving her the courage to switch from flute with no reed to the difficult oboe with two, where she gets to be “first and last chair” as a section unto herself — but she’s confident for her three solos at Tuesday’s concert.
Parent Carla Keirnan said, “There is always a choice, so I hope the board is listening with open minds and open hearts. The arts and physical education require one credit for graduation in Michigan high schools. They’re equal.”
She cited statistics about the benefits of music education.
“The kids and parents know our band directors are invested in our schools and I believe this board knows it. Cutting Mr. White’s position creates the illusion of saving money, but without critical expertise, passion and drive, many students will be less interested,” with existing musicians dropping band and recruiting more difficult in fifth grade.
Parent Andrea Doll said, “It’s fabulous that this room is filled with young, amazing musicians. I’d hate to see the number shrink, but this is absolutely what will happen if we reduce our band staffing by 50 percent. This district is known throughout the state for its exceptional band. If we’re looking to attract students, it would be a shame to eliminate one of its big attractions.”
Grants, a patron program and perhaps charging a nominal $3 fee at the Performing Arts Center have been explored as “funding opportunities that would decrease the band’s burden on the budget,” with the administration halfway to closing a $3 million deficit by June 30.
White ‘my hero’
President Birdella Holdread allotted 30 minutes for input, three minutes each, but let the cathartic outpouring flow since students presented themselves so earnestly and politely, leading off with Noah McGivern, the freshman band member who last year won the” America and Me” essay contest for Michigan — writing about his “hero” — White.
“This essay was not only posted in many papers,” he said, “but was also read to all of the Edwardsburg school teachers and faculty. This was used to not only inspire other students, but the teachers who teach them … the band department has grown to the largest it has ever been at the high school level” and placed among the 10 best in the state competing in Detroit and earning straight I’s at festival.
“Mr. White is not only my hero, but a hero to hundreds of students, families and this community,” he said.
A 13-year-old girl said White has inspired her “to want to be a band director like him.” A sixth grader said “he has made a huge impact on my life in two years. I thought I’d give band a try, but now I never want to quit.”
A father brought his family here in 2008 from the New York metropolitan area because of Edwardsburg’s “reputation for academics and fine arts.”
Referring to Supt. Sherman Ostrander’s mention of the smallest kindergarten roundup in his 18-year tenure, he said, “If that trend continues, we’re looking at a student population of two-thirds 12 years from now, so I hope strategic planning is on the board’s mind.”
The board meets again Monday.
Tags: Edwardsburg High School