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Letter: Music matters to students

Last fall, only part of our Willmar Public School levy passed. That meant that the administration and board needed to cut $1.6 million from the budget. Many people realize that we have closed two school buildings and will restructure our elementary system. But most people don't realize that the problem is only solved for this year, and that approximately $1.4 million will need to be cut next year. Many people don't see that some of the programs considered the most exceptional in our schools are weakening. One of these is music. To the average audience member, the quality still looks excellent. However, budget cuts have caused the erosion of the program through loss of personnel, resulting in the following:

- K-8 rehearsal times cut in half, resulting in fewer concerts.

- High school music teachers visit two to three buildings a day, resulting in rushed, limited access to all students.

- High school music classes frequently reach 105 students, limiting individual attention.

- Shrinking lessons at the senior high, weakening the bedrock of musicianship.

Music is not mandated by the state, so it is especially vulnerable. In response to these things, a community group has formed called Music Matters. Our group advocates for adequate school funding, increases awareness of Willmar Public Schools K-12 music programs and has joined with a nonprofit, the Southwest Initiative Foundation, to provide supplemental funding to assure stellar music education for each student.

We hope that the next levy passes. But in the interim, we urge you to support music by attending performances, but also preventing further losses by making a tax-deductible donation. Music Matters is hoping to raise $55,000 in the next month that would allow administration to hire personnel that would retain the programming at 2008-2009 levels. Please visit our Web page,, for more information and an easy donation link.

Join us in keeping music strong!

Jill R. Benson, Cheryl Schmidt, Darlene Schroeder, Walt and Raeanna Gislason, Pam Rozendaal, Sara Bos; Willmar