Sound Of Music Alive And Well In Oswego Schools

OSWEGO, NY – Oswego school board members heard about the important role music plays in a student’s academic career, and beyond.

At this week’s board of education meeting, Cheryl Rogers, music team leader, offered an overview of the district’s music department.

She also shared an interesting graduation statistic with the board.

A few years ago, the Pittsburgh, Pa., school district analyzed its dropout rates in terms of students’ musical experience.

Members of the Marching Buccaneers parade across the Bridge Street Bridge last November to officially open the new bridge.
Members of the Marching Buccaneers parade across the Bridge Street Bridge last November to officially open the new bridge.

The students with no ensemble performance experience had a dropout rate of 7.4 percent. Students with one to two years of ensemble experience had a dropout rate of only one percent.

Those with three or more years of performance experience had a dropout rate of 0.0 percent, Rogers told the board.

That is something they hope to achieve in Oswego as well, she said.

“The Oswego City School District music department has established an outstanding comprehensive music education program,” she told the board. “It is a program that serves the needs of every student registered in the school district.”

The district provides and avenue of learning for the person who will be a consumer of music and a person who will be a professional, she noted.

“This approach ensures that every student has the opportunity to share and acquire the necessary knowledge to appreciate the rich historical and cultural events of the world,” she explained. “The general music program is unique in that it touches the lives of every single student in our school district.”

It gives students the chance to explore, study and actively participate in the many facets of music making, she said.

Through the general music program, students are able to study every form of music from American folk songs to the music of other cultures, Rogers said.

The district’s instrumental program provides band and string instrument instruction beginning in the fourth grade.

The department’s performing ensembles include 19 bands, 14 orchestras and 17 choruses.

Extracurricular offerings include marching band, Winter Guard and the annual musical.

She pointed out several accomplishments during 2008-09

177 students participated in All County festivals.

Approximately 180 students performed solos and ensembles and were evaluated at the NYSSMA Solo Festival.

31 students were chosen for junior and senior high area All-State in chorus, band and orchestra.

3 students were chosen for Conference All-State (the best students in the state) based on their perfect scores of 100 at the NYSSMA Solo Festival.

Also, students performed for the Salvation Army, at Rotary meetings, community tree lighting ceremony, nursing homes and at other civic and community functions.

The department presented 46 public concerts in the various schools, had 14 school wide assemblies, six jazz concerts and a cabaret music night at OMS and four musicals with seven performances.

The marching band competed in six NYSFBC competitions, including at the Carrier Dome in the National Class Championships.

Music is a part of the students' academic life - up to and including at the graduation ceremony.
Music is a part of the students' academic life - up to and including at the graduation ceremony.

At the national level, Oswego students have been selected to the Bands of America Honors Band in the Rose Bowl Parade, the US Army All American Band in Texas, and the Music Educators’ National Conference All Eastern Orchestra in Rhode Island.

“The most important figure in all of this is that 1,658 students in this school district perform in one or more of the district’s musical ensembles,” she pointed out. “We are very proud of the fact that we have that many students participate.

Plans for the program include a committee to review team recruiting, a retention study, facility evaluation and more.

They would like to institute an equipment replacement program.

“About 90 percent or more of our instruments is more than 30 years old. Funding to replace some of the inventory is crucial,” she said. “We’re spending more than we should on repairs.”

If a student is physically able to play an instrument, they would like to afford them the opportunity, she said.

“If a student can’t afford an instrument, we should have an inventory of instruments available for them,” she said. “No child should be turned away from performing because of financial need.”

Rogers then highlighted where some of Oswego’s (music) graduates have wound up.

She noted, for example, David Parker, a former member of “The President’s Own” US Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps in Washington, DC; John McCullough, a free-lance music supervisor in LA whose credits several well-know TV series; Ed Lisk, one of the most sought after – if not the most sought after – music educator, conductor, author and clinician in the world; Dr. Michael Crist, dean of the School of Music at Youngstown University in Ohio and William Crist, Oswego’s school superintendent.