Posted: May 20, 2012 at 9:33 PM [May 20, 2012]
I was extremely upset to hear about the cut in funding for the district choir and band camps. As a student who has been to choir camp three summers in a row, I cannot stress enough the impact that they have had on my high school career, and my life. Coming to high school can be a scary prospect; I know it was for me. I didn’t know anybody and as far as choir was concerned I wasn’t sure how I would compare to other kids in terms of skill level. After attending choir camp, which took place a few weeks before school began, my confidence about maneuvering within a large high school increased, and my musical abilities grew. This week-long camp helped me make new friends and the feeling of anxiety was replaced with a sense of excitement about everything to come. I don’t think the board understood what effect the camps can have on students before deciding that it was “…one of the items [they] quickly deemed amenable to cut without further discussion.”
Last summer, over 850 students from across the district attended choir, band, and orchestra camps at Interlochen. As it was, Students were still expected to pay a $350 to attend camp, and the students who are financially incapable can receive scholarships. Overall, quite a few kids take advantage of the scholarships to attend camp, yet surprisingly none of the funding for the scholarships comes from the district; it’s all acquired through fundraisers within each school’s music program. So if the district doesn’t have to pay for a single student to attend camp, then what does it pay for? That’s what I wondered when my choir teacher informed us of the proposed budget cuts. In fact, the district only pays for the faculty at camp: teachers, assistants, a camp director, and a health officer (both of which are required by the State of Michigan). When it comes down to it, that $60,000 that the district is saving is nothing in comparison to the large numbers of students who take advantage of the camps and basically pay for it themselves. Where do they expect us to get the extra money to make up for what was lost when the initial payment already took a toll on some families?
I don’t mean to make it sound like the board should’ve cut some equally as important things that it didn’t, like Roberto Clemente and bussing to AAO, I just wish that the board members would’ve taken more time to try and gauge how amazing of an experience they potentially took away from hundreds of students. Having a school choir and band camp gave an equal opportunity to every student in the Ann Arbor public schools where there usually wouldn’t be one. Many more affluent families have the chance to send their kids to summer camps all the time, whereas there are many kids in the city who can’t afford to do that and therefore fall behind in skill level. Here, students of all financial status and skill level were given an equal playing field where they could grow exponentially as musicians.