Residents look to reinstate program
MANISTIQUE – It’s been almost two years since the band program at Manistique Middle and High School was cut, but that doesn’t mean it’s been forgotten. A recent push from the public, as well as some students and staff, has brought the program back into the limelight.
In several of the most recent Manistique Area Board of Education meetings, requests for the reinstatement of the band program have been made. During the April 15 meeting, Manistique High School Principal John Shiner explained that he had tasked high school student council and class representatives with “Service Learning Projects” – one of which involved cleaning and organizing the vacant band room.
“The band room was in rough shape at the closure of the program,” he said.
On one recent Saturday afternoon, around 10 to 15 school children participated in the clean-up, including junior Coby Ryan, who was also present at the meeting.
“We really wanted to get in there and make it usable in hopes that we would want to get band back,” he explained. “A lot of kids would be interested in that.”
He noted that cleaning isn’t the only task the kids have been planning.
“We actually have some of the older kids that are thinking of giving some music lessons to younger kids,” he said. “If, and when, the transition takes place and we do start, some of our older kids are going to take some of our younger kids and teaching them the basics of music.”
During the public comment period of the meeting, Jim Russey, conductor of the community choir, also made his case for bringing back band.
“I’ve been a lifelong music educator, having been both tenured in university and in public schools,” he said. “I’ve been observing the school … and I feel like there’s a hole that’s in your education.”
He explained that currently, Manistique Area Schools stop music education in fifth grade. This, Russey added, leaves children without opportunities to grow in other areas.
“Schools that have good, solid music and arts programs tend to have stronger academic programs because of this,” he said.
Since there are no musical offerings beyond fifth grade, Russey said community members, mostly retired music educators, have started activities like glee club and a community orchestra.
“When we all get too tired to be able to produce these things, like glee, for you – you haven’t trained anybody to get into the next generation,” he said. “So, is music going to disappear?”
Russey explained band programs offer more options to the students.
“Not every child can be a cheerleader or an athlete, and music ensembles have a way to draw kids in,” he said. “If you had a band here, you’d have a ready-made place for some of these kids that are just struggling as to what to do because they can’t shoot a basket or they can’t score a touchdown.”
He also noted that the community must have acknowledged the importance of a band program, since they built the band room and auditorium the school current has.
“They sunk a lot of money into that to make sure that arts would happen in school; that music would happen in schools,” he said. “I’m very, very concerned, as a voter and also as a community person.”
Chris Freeman, a student at MAS, added to Russey’s statements, making his own points in favor of the band program’s return.
“We do not have band, and there are some kids at this school that would like to go to college for music,” he said. “Without a band program, we can’t learn to read sheet music on site.”
The board did not address or take action on the possible reinstatement of the band program in the middle and high school. It is unknown whether the issue will appear on a future agenda.