Arts Impact - Your Stories

I have three children, two current students and one graduate of the ICSD. I have seen that the arts (and sports) have given my students a sense of belonging, mentoring relationships with adults, and an opportunity to explore who they are. Along the way, they also learned skills. This did not happen with one big event, but lots of things over their Grade K-12 experience. It was this ongoing opportunity to participate that led to lots of learning.

Here are some of the things that I remember (and my students do, too).

  • The solo singing part in the grade 4 choral concert
  • The fact that they still remember the curriculum content of their ESP/Project 4/Grade 4 play with the Hangar Theatre guest artists, and their Beauty and the Beast stories
  • The vibrancy and joy of the Belle Sherman step dance group
  • Going over the art portfolio when it came home and choosing a work for a frame
  • The band that got started in the Boynton Talent/Variety Show and is still going on today (now my student is a college junior)
  • The sense of community established in the Boynton musical and LACS play, even though one student just held a piece of scenery and the other painted it
  • The talented Mr. Peterson who sees movement potential and can convince boys to dance and make it cool
  • The fact that you can mess up a song in a band concert but life still goes on, and you learn from it
  • My all-sports student who rediscoverd he enjoyed drawing in the high school studio art class
  • The Cabaret Nights at the high school where students get to own the show and share their many performing interests
  • The photography teacher and the WISE mentor who pushed my student to be more than he thought he could be

And, I could go on. It is this collection of experiences that have helped shape my students. It has not been just a one time thing, but the opportunity to participate over time.

support for music and drama at ICSD

I have three children, two IHS seniors who have participated in many of the instrumental music programs offered at Cayuga Heights, Boynton and the High School and one who will graduate from Cayuga Heights this year. They have grown enormously with the benefits of after-school music and arts at ICSD and it has been fascinating to watch as their peers and friends have blossomed in drama, musical theater and chorus too.

Let me tell you why I feel that these programs are such an important priority and should be preserved by the district.

  • My two older children, who started to play string instruments beginning in 3rd grade, have continued right through high school; it has been a central part of their school experience. With a couple of years in elementary school to develop basic skills, they were ready to play in the band and orchestra by middle school. The best thing was the role of music as a social experience which they grew into with a group of kids who became their best friends. I feel that instrumental music should continue to be offered in 3rd grade to build a group of musicians who can play together in middle school and high school.
  • A friend’s daughter for whom singing was ‘for fun’ started in a musical in middle school, and it allowed her to become a star on stage as well take up singing more seriously. I have hosted groups of kids singing the songs of Oklahoma and Music Man at the top of their lungs in my living room. How lucky we are that this has happened in Ithaca.
  • The teachers at the middle school teaching orchestra, band, chorus and theater have fostered so many musicians, singers and actors and actresses, and helped them become better students along the way. The teachers work to perfect the quality of plays and concerts so they can bring home awards. Those teachers, spend hours on after-school practices and give of themselves constantly for many more hours than they are paid. The middle school play and musical should stay. If the middle school extracurricular music programs are cut, it will be a huge loss for our children and how will Ithaca keep these highly motivated teachers?
  • As kids grow up, why fund the extras? In the world of video games, movies and television, music and drama offer a respite, and for kids a little discipline and commitment. Recently, I attended the All Eastern Music Ensemble concerts to hear my oldest son and another student representing Ithaca High School play in a top notch orchestra and band. Edward Lisk, the conductor for the Honors band at the Music Educator’s conference in Providence, Rhode Island, spoke of the importance of teaching children to recognize ‘the beautiful’ to counteract the perils of the world our kids face. I have to agree with him!

What will it take to maintain a great Arts and Music curriculum at ICSD while the budgets are shrinking? Maybe the music and arts teachers who know these programs best should recommend where costs can be trimmed; it might be best to trim in small increments rather than take programs out altogether. Once they are gone, its not clear if we’ll ever see them back.

Gale Halpern

Yet another take on the practical side for arts programs

I ditto everything that has been and will be expressed regarding the intrinsic value of arts in schools. Here is another reason why I look at the programs as crucial to educational success: I own and operate a bed and breakfast located smack between the campuses in Ithaca. I spend most of my mornings serving breakfast and then delving into in-depth conversations with my clients, 90% of whom are in Ithaca to visit colleges with their children. For the past ten years I have witnessed a pattern emerge from all these discussions, regardless of their purpose. All of these parents describe how their children were accepted to their chosen schools BECAUSE OF THE EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES THEY HAVE PURSUED AND WELL ROUNDED SKILLS THEY HAVE DEMONSTRATED, while maintaining good grades. They describe the programs their schools offer and I cringe with envy. Yet at least we have the basics. Or not? OH MY GOD, WE MUST HAVE THE BASICS! HELLO!

The long term effects of the ICSD music department

TO the Board of ICSD:

We all have rose - colored memories of growing up in Ithaca. They are valuable to all of us. Mine happen to include Martha Brodhead, Anne Furry, Alice Francis, and Frank Mazurek. Ms. Brodhead perceived each child’s musical abilities, and capitalized upon them. All of us loved to actively, not passively, participate in the joy of making music together. Ms. Brodhead is the one who told my parents, “your daughter can choose whatever instrument she likes, as long as you and she will commit to it for a year.” That year turned into 32 years of loving my cello, performing, and best of all, teaching. I am able to share that love of excellence that was shared with me - and reveals a window into a world of music that can and does make a huge difference for so many.

A city like Ithaca can ABSOLUTELY NOT do without an elementary instrumental program. It goes against the legacy of Ithaca College in our fair city, those who went before us like Maurice Stith and Frank Battisti, and will certainly prevent the continuation of success at the High School.

Please come up with a better and more thoughtful solution than erasing the Elementary Instrumental music program of ICSD.


Kirstin Peltz

(Belated) support for a strong arts program

“Fifty, nifty United States, from the 13 original colonies…” What parent can’t at least begin that song, as well as the president’s song? By the time my third child was singing this song in concert, I knew it by heart myself. Those two songs are just one small measure of the ways that the arts support other disciplines, reinforcing concepts and enhancing understanding as children learn music that characterizes a time period they are studying.

It is easy to document benefits beyond the academic. My eldest was a freshman in high school when she attended the annual orchestra retreat at the Cayuga Nature Center. This mid-year program was a turning point in her attitude about attending the high school. The camaraderie fostered by the retreat meant she felt a part of the school community, for the first time. The change in her attitude was striking, and her new-found enthusiasm for school spilled over into her academic classes.

My middle child carried a heavy academic load, and she decided to drop music in favor of sports, for she could not manage the time both to practice an instrument and train for her sport. Sports won over music. Senior year was particularly stressful, and my daughter chose to fulfill her fine arts requirement with a pottery elective. Pounding on clay was the best stress reducer, a benefit neither of us anticipated but both were very grateful for this bonus. The creative outlet provided needed balance to her life.

We are fortunate to live in a community that values the arts. Although my three children have long since graduated high school, I remain a strong supporter of a strong arts program.

Eileen Bach