A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Parkdale Instrumental Program is underrated and needs more students

In this year’s homecoming week, did anyone notice something off about the Spirit Train? If you didn’t, you may not have been paying enough attention.

While most people think the SGA is in charge of the train, it is really Parkdale’s Instrumental Music Program (IMP).The IMP is one of the most under-appreciated program in the school. The program consists of the orchestra and the different level of bands: basic, concert, and symphonic.

Over the years, I have notice a few problems with the program, the main one being the number of students in it. In my freshman and junior years, I noticed that we had a lot more people in the classes compared to what we have now. During my freshman year, there were at least 40 students in the orchestra, but now it seems like there is half of that. So what has caused this? Why have the number of people in the music program decreased? I asked the heads of the different sections in the program for their theories.

“People were only in the band for two years to receive their two fine arts credits,” said senior Jonathan Diaz, president of the band. “Some people have thought band was too challenging for them–which it really wasn’t–and so have given up.”

As someone who appreciates the program as a whole, I feel like the people who joined and left for these reasons should try again. There are many opportunities, such as musical scholarships for those who play an instrument, that many people do not know about because they never gave playing an instrument a thought.

The students who have been in the program for years have faced the consequences and challenges that come with a low number of students.

According to Diaz, the school year has the “lowest numbers” he has ever seen. “For each band, I’d say there are somewhere around 12-20 people per band, give or take,” said Diaz.

This is also a problem in the orchestra.  Senior Fatima Herrera,  president of orchestra, says the low numbers have greatly affected the program.

“There are a few people in each section such as the violas, which causes a missing piece in the music we play,” said Herrera. “Each section is important and there should be an equal amount.”

The fact that the programs need more players is not the only issue. Besides needing more students period, they need students with experience. It is great that they have students who want to learn how to play, but without advanced players, the solutions that they have came up with will not work.

According to Herrera, the Student Leadership Council has asked the upper chairs, or the more advanced players, in each section to help the others if it’s with rhythm, counting, or fingerings.

Diaz says the band is feeling the effects of low numbers, too.

“There are some instrumentalists that we do not have that are very important, so we’ve had to switch some people from one instrument to another,” Diaz said. “Some songs we can’t even play because certain instruments are missing so we give up on playing those songs.”

Just imagine having to learn a whole new instrument and be expected to play it well quickly. That’s not exactly fair for the students. It would be much simpler to get students who know how to play that certain instrument or finding people who do not mind learning an instrument for the first time.

I’m sure people have noticed that during the Spirit Week this year, the Spirit Train was not as exciting as it normally is. That is because of the fact that the marching band did not participate.

As the former marching band manager, I have noticed that the number there has decreased drastically as well. The marching band needs about 20 students in order to have the bare minimum needed for all the parts to sound good.

In our case according to Diaz, the Marching Panthers could not perform because they had “around 10 students”.  Imagine trying to get hyped to that small number…Exactly.

However, we can not only blame the students for the lack of numbers.  

According to Diaz, in some cases “counselors have pushed band to the side for countless students when they had chosen to be in it. Some of them, for years, have been trying to get in but their counselor at the time did not allow it”

I know the counselors are doing their jobs, and we all appreciate them for everything that they do, but please can we get some more instrumentalists.

Another reason is the academic programs. In my case, I fell victim to that. As a result of the academic program, such as IB, it is extremely difficult to fit orchestra back in your schedule. That doesn’t mean that people should just give up asking their counselor. The worst thing that could happen is them saying no.

The Student Leadership Council realizes there is not much they can do. According to both Diaz and Herrera, the program plans on appealing to incoming 9th graders in order to find more potential students.

Just to give someone an incentive about finding out more about the program: think about all the music scholarships that are available.

The instrumental music department needs more credit and members, so if we can, let’s try to help them out.