No matter how much the Arts permeate our lives, they are often seen as ‘optional’ in the eyes of politicians and governments. At a Federal level the Stephen Harper led Conservatives have made Canada less environmentally, internationally and artistically friendly than it has been in years. In fact they celebrated their two year anniversary with a majority government and the Toronto Star has a good review of what they’ve done since then. No matter how much we criticize Canadian programming on the CBC, it was still ours and we secretly loved what we could get out of low-budget shows over the years. CBC’s funding has been cut drastically, CBC radio music studios have been closed almost everywhere, people have lost their jobs and we’re quickly losing our ability to embrace our peoples imagination and initiative as the Government tries to control the heart and soul of Canada’s media.
But that’s another story. What I’m concerned about is the Provincial Government and the recent funding cuts to the Edmonton Public Schools Music Enrichment Program. The Music Enrichment program has been a part of out city for over 50 years and gives students the opportunity to further their music studies after school in a safe environment with qualified instructors on a wide variety of musical instruments. This program benefits both students by encouraging their talents and parents by providing a safe, educational extracurricular activity. The students in this program are there based on their aptitude and commitment, these are students that want to play an instrument and may take it up as a profession in the future.
I never took part in this program, but there are thousands of people who have, many who have gone on to become full-time musicians or at least continued playing throughout their lives. It may not seem like much to some, but imagine cutting a school’s basketball or football team and see the uproar that would come from that. These students will go on to join orchestras, form bands, or maybe just play songs with their families, but in turn that will influence countless others. Our lives are shaped and lived by the culture that surrounds us and stifling that culture will make us look elsewhere and ultimately affect our growth as people and as a city. If you’ve ever seen the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, these are the students that become the musicians. If you’ve even seen a local jazz group, these are the students playing those songs. If you’ve ever seen a band at a local music venue, these students are that band. You get the picture.
Funding cuts to the Edmonton Public School Board from the Provincial Government has caused the School Board to look for ways to save money and ending the $220,000 Music Enrichment program was one way to save money. Now $220,000 per year is not a lot of money to continue a program that enriches hundreds of students lives per year and with the Government expecting a $5.2 Billion surplus in the next budget, it would be easy to save the program, which many parents, musicians and concerned individuals are trying to do. I would suggest signing this petition or writing your local MLA or the Premier directly.