Music teachers hope appeal strikes chord with trustees

Local Music Educators' Association warns Board of Education of looming lack of trained music teachers in province

Campbell River School District’s model K-12 music programs could be at risk in the coming years if more teaches are not trained in music, the SD72 Board of Trustees was told at its regular meeting Tuesday.

Jennifer Abbott, a music instructor at Sandowne Elementary, made the remarks on behalf of a delegation of about a half-dozen members of the Campbell River Music Educators’ Association.

“In recent years five music teachers have retired from this district, and more will be leaving in the near future,” said Abbott. “This raises concern and the realization that there are few qualified music teachers available in the province.”

Abbott said a 2013 Quality Teaching Inquiry commissioned by the BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC Music Educators’ Association, entitled Speak Out, determined universities in B.C. do not offer courses that adequately prepare pre-service teachers for music specialization.

“This problem is a consequence of the College of Teachers’ decision to focus solely on generalist teacher training,” said Abbott, who grew up attending music classes in Campbell River. “This poses a potential problem to the longevity and sustainability of our comprehensive music programs in Campbell River.”

Abbott did note the district has hired four instructors in recent years, and the CRMEA has found support for them through professional development courses. But, she said, the association remains concerned about the lack of trained music teachers for current on-call needs and for future needs in the district.

“Your support in speaking out for more teacher training at the post-secondary level wold be greatly appreciated,” said told the trustees. “We must continue to advocate and lead by example in the recruitment of quality music specialists.”

Abbott’s presentation, ironically, came during a meeting in which the board learned it could be facing more than a million dollars in lost revenue from the Ministry of Education in the coming three years.

She cautioned that without the support of public school music programs, only children of families able to afford private lessons would be able to experience “this life-enhancing, humanizing art form.”

Abbott also extended a pair of invitations to the board. The first was to attend a music classroom to watch and engage with students in their musical development. The second was to the annual Music Showcase, in which students from all schools gather to watch their peers perform and close the show with a large group number.”

This year’s showcase takes place Mar. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Carihi, and features a piece to honour Darlene Ngo, the matriarch of the music educators’ association at the time of her death to cancer last spring.

“Music has always been at the core of this district, ever since I’ve been a trustee,” said Daryl Hagen. “All my kids went through the music program here in Campbell River.

“It’s amazing what music can do for your life. It’s a brain-trainer.”