Music boosters at Northgate High school are in shock about the news that the Mt. Diablo Unified School Board unanimously agreed to lay off 200 teachers, including the music director of their school's highly acclaimed instrumental music program.
The music director had been on the list of teachers notified of layoffs in March and was among the 200 who were on the layoff list approved by Mt. Diablo Unified trustees at their meeting Tuesday night, parents say.
The instrumental music program at Northgate has been "recognized with numerous command performance awards, unanimous superior festival ratings,
and first place awards at band, orchestra, chamber music, and jazz festivals / competitions," according to a Northgate High website.
More recently the Northgate jazz band received the honor of being one of 12 bands selected, from out of hundreds, to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival's Next Generation Festival in April. The band will also perform Monday evening at Yoshi's in Oakland.
A Northgate music booster I spoke to said the music director's layoff is just one terrible blow among many to students, parents, and educators who value music education in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. The planned teacher layoffs in the district included 25 music teachers.
The Mt. Diablo Music Education Foundation is working to keep fourth and fifth grade instrumental music in the schools. The reason music education is important in those early years is that kids gain experience, the Northgate music booster told me. She explained that kids can get hooked on performing music when they're young; they want to stick with it into middle school and high school. If kids lose that chance for music lessons and ensemble experience in the early grades, there won't be enough kids ready to fill band programs in high school.
"For so many kids, music is a big part of who they are," the booster says. "The bare bones academics isn't enough. It doesn't give them a form of expression."