Morgan Frost-Karlsson: The need for creative electives
I am a former Nevada Union Choir student (2008-2012), and it has been brought to my attention that creative electives such as art, drama, band and choir might no longer be available to incoming freshmen due to a new year-long health and ‘“Get focused Stay focused” curriculum.
This is an outrage, and frankly an ironic one given that the absolute best way to help students focus and improve mental health is to give them a creative outlet.
In the seven years since graduating NU, I have studied developmental neuroscience in which I am beginning my PhD. I cannot stress enough how crucial it is for adolescents to have music as a part of their curriculum. There are decades of well-conducted, peer reviewed research showing music education: speeds up neural connections, relieves stress and improves mental health, teaches teamwork and discipline, and improves academic performance. I learned this repeatedly throughout my education as a neuroscientist.
Given the new curriculum at NU, a student beginning high school will have only academic classes apart from PE. Beginning high school is a huge change with academic and social obstacles; denying students any sort of creative outlet will amplify this problem, especially for those who already struggle academically and/or socially.
The NU choir has been well-renowned for over 50 years, beginning with Don Baggett, the namesake of our theater, and continuing with his son Rod. Like its sports teams, NU’s choir program is effectively “Division I” level — during my four years in choir, we consistently won trophies at the state level and we traveled internationally. Enrollment has sharply declined since then, but this spring I had the pleasure of hearing the choir during their trip to England and I can attest that the level of excellence has not changed.
In order to operate at such an advanced level, students must develop skills over four years. Additionally, being denied enrollment for the first year will make a student less likely to join later. This will most likely destroy the future of these music programs. I can’t imagine that the school board would consider banning freshmen from any of its highly prioritized sports teams for these reasons. Music and art students should not be treated differently.
Winning, however, is not the reason many of us came to school at 6:30 every morning to rehearse. Imagine the dedication a teenager feels in order to do this. Choir brought us a tightly knit group more akin to cousins than classmates. We bonded. We learned patience, discipline, and teamwork, and what it takes to make many voices blend to sound like one. We didn’t only bond with one another, though — we bonded with our community.
We performed at several community events throughout each year, including not only the annual Relay for Life, parades, and Victorian Christmas, but also performing free, private concerts at nursing homes and elementary schools. Sharing music was an incredible, unforgettable way to engage with our community and learn the value of service. If you are curious, just visit the Facebook page “NU Choir” to see a glimpse of the vastness of their community outreach.
The school board and administrative staff are reluctant to make any changes to this new curriculum, and without changes freshmen will not be able to participate in any creative electives. I implore you to consider the long-term effects this will have on not only these students and programs but our entire community.
Please help to pressure the school board to change this outrageous decision; our students and our community need you.
Morgan Frost-Karlsson was raised in Nevada City and attended Nevada Union High School. She currently lives in Sweden.
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