marching band

Where Do We Go From Here?

2/28/14, 1pm UPDATE: In the past 50+ hours of my original blog post post going live, it has exploded like wildfire. This is my fault. I have encouraged people to share this blog on social media across Facebook, Twitter, etc. I originally thought I would get at best a 100 or so views. I wasn’t expecting the fast approaching 20,000 hits it has received so far. As the page view count grew so did my passion for this area and my desire to see it grow more.

As it has grown, I have received messages from all over the US expressing support and solidarity. I have also been told stories that break my heart about schools like this. These stories, coming out of Kansas, Minnesota, Nevada, and others, continue to show that this is a subject which has touched off a lot of people. I have seen, in the very comments here, posts that I would consider bullying in nature, from fellow students and from parents. For that reason, I’m LOCKING THE COMMENTS SECTION DOWN and removing the sharing options. I’m sorry I have to be doing this, but I feel that it is for the students safety.

I have heard from fellow members of the senior class who played in the band that disagree with my statements and the facts as they were presented to me. I have invited them to share their thoughts.

I am also changing many aspects of this article, I’m removing the name of the town and the names of the students, from both the article and the comments section. I have also removed the original picture. This is for the students own safety and for their future.

I am also removing ALL contact links to the school in question.

I never imagined that this story would take off as it has, I never imagined it would become the juggernaut that it has become.

Thank you all for standing up for these two students. I am proud of what I wrote, I am proud of them. They are my heroes for taking an unpopular stand that they felt was right. #WeAreSeniorsToo

-Everett Robert
Emergency Room Productions
Feb. 28, 2014
1pm
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

So, if you haven’t heard, I wrote a blog a couple of days ago that has been getting a lot of attention. How much attention? Well, over 17,000 views since it went live early Wednesday morning. At the bottom of all my blogs there is a little “Share This” bar, the Facebook “Like” button has been hit 3.7K times. I’ve received comments, tweets, Facebook messages from across the state and the nation. I’ve heard stories that have made me cry because of how schools (schools across the nation!) have treated their children who choose to focus on their music, their art, their writing, their academics, their whatever instead of sports. How they’ve been ignored and mistreated. How funds they’ve raised have gone on to be used for the athletes, how teachers pay for things out of their own pockets and fight for their students. Stories about this being used to encourage other band students. Somehow #weareseniorstoo has started to bloom into something I never expected or anticipated.

In these messages, I’ve been asked “What can I do? What’s next?”

You maybe wondering that too, but didn’t know how to ask. Here’s my answer, short and sweet.

SUPPORT THE ARTS!

Don’t bully students that are involved in the arts, don’t pressure students into doing athletics if they don’t want to. Recognize student artists, student academics, student farmers, student volunteers. Don’t prioritize sports over everything else.

Sports is a fleeting moment in a person’s life, it lasts for a moment and then it’s gone. You may learn valuable lessons and hard lessons and that is good. But don’t prioritize it over everyone else and don’t romantize it. Support the arts. Go to concerts, plays, musicals, art shows, etc. If your school has a Twitter or Facebook page, encourage them to not just post the latest team scores but also the honor roll, when the FFA does well, the Scholars Bowl, the artists, etc.

#WeAreSeniorsToo

As always, you can Tweet @ me, you can Facebook me, or join me on Tumblr.

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We’re Seniors Too

2/28/14, 1pm UPDATE: In the past 50+ hours of this blog post going live, it has exploded like wildfire. This is my fault. I have encouraged people to share this blog on social media across Facebook, Twitter, etc. I originally thought I would get at best a 100 or so views. I wasn’t expecting the fast approaching 20,000 hits it has received so far. As the page view count grew so did my passion for this area and my desire to see it grow more.

As it has grown, I have received messages from all over the US expressing support and solidarity. I have also been told stories that break my heart about schools like this. These stories, coming out of Kansas, Minnesota, Nevada, and others, continue to show that this is a subject which has touched off a lot of people. I have seen, in the very comments here, posts that I would consider bullying in nature, from fellow students and from parents. For that reason, I’m LOCKING THE COMMENTS SECTION DOWN and removing the sharing options. I’m sorry I have to be doing this, but I feel that it is for the students safety.

I have heard from fellow members of the senior class who played in the band that disagree with my statements and the facts as they were presented to me. I have invited them to share their thoughts.

I am also changing many aspects of this article, I’m removing the name of the town and the names of the students, from both the article and the comments section. I have also removed the original picture. This is for the students own safety and for their future.

I am also removing ALL contact links to the school in question.

I never imagined that this story would take off as it has, I never imagined it would become the juggernaut that it has become.

Thank you all for standing up for these two students. I am proud of what I wrote, I am proud of them. They are my heroes for taking an unpopular stand that they felt was right. #WeAreSeniorsToo

-Everett Robert
Emergency Room Productions
Feb. 28, 2014
1pm

Edited Post in

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I want to take you to Smalltown, KS located on the wild plains of western Kansas. The population is less than 1,500 people. It may be hard to believe that towns this size exist, but I assure you, they do.

I know about this town because my first two plays were performed there. In fact, I completed the script to that show less than a block away from the high school. I’ve eaten lunch there, performed there, lived there for three months. It’s a town I dearly love, but at the moment, I’m saddened by.

In a town that small, I’m sure you can imagine how small the school is. According to http://www.high-schools.com, total enrollment at Smalltown High is 166. Of those 166 students, 36 are seniors. Tonight, Feb 25, 2014, was their last home basketball game of the season.

In many schools across the state and the nation, the last home game is often recognized as “Senior Night.” I’ve seen it at high school football games, basketball games, etc. It’s a chance for the coaches, faculty, parents and fans to cheer and recognize the hard-working athletes, cheerleaders, sports managers in their last home game. There are two young people I know who are Smalltown High School seniors. But they are not part of “the team”, they are members of the band. And tonight, at their last home game as pep band members they did not get recognized alongside their classmates.

And here’s the kicker, they were promised they would be recognized and then that offer was rescinded. They were told they COULD be recognized at their spring concert. Which, according to one of the students, has “minimum to no attendance” and which she has “never seen” happen. So what did these brave students do? They stood up and made themselves recognized.

Let me put this out here right now, I have no problems with sports. I think sports have their place in high schools as much as music, theater, and the arts. As I’m typing this, I’m wearing a tee-shirt recognizing a Big 12 collegiate team, a hoodie from an area high school, and a Major League baseball cap. I got to sporting events. I even played sports for a little while in middle school and in high school.

But what I do have a problem with is athletes getting greater recognition then others. Whether they be players, managers or cheerleaders, they are NOT more important than their classmates who work just as hard, put in as many hours, with none of the glory and recognition. I fear and feel that this brings forth a culture of entitlement that carries on into later adulthood.

Do you want to know what this band and their members have done for Smalltown High School? From One of the band members,

 We have played pep band since sixth grade, long before the seniors who were recognized tonight played on that court, before the cheerleaders wore those uniforms, before the managers worked with the coaches. I have never ridden on a class float during the homecoming parade, because I have always marched. I have played in half times at college football games. I have taken music to contests and played in honor bands. I have played with Dallas Brass. I’ve played jazz band on top of a mountain in Aspen at a ski resort.

These band members were ambassadors for their school, but more than that, they were torchbearers and played as important a role in athletics as the athletes on the field or the court. In Biblical times, musicians often preceded the armies into battle and in beginning in the 16th century in Europe, armies would often have a drum and fife player who would play uplifting music to encourage the troops, as well as be used to convey orders. What is the purpose of a high school pep band but to uplift and encourage the crowd of spectators and the athletes. They work in conjunction with cheerleaders often times.

I’m writing about this, not because these students are friends of mine (although they are-they were part of my original show in Smalltown), not because I’m disappointed in a school or a town (although I am), but because this is symptomatic of our culture. We like to separate the “jocks” from the “geeks”. We like to pigeonhole and ghettoize groups of people. We place a disproportionate amount of praise on our student athletes while marginalizing and ignoring our student artists. I graduated high school almost 20 years ago, from a much larger high school, and felt the same thing. Student artists get the shaft while student athletes get the praise. I had hoped that our society had progressed beyond that.

I’ve blogged about this before, but it bears repeating; arts in education is vital to making our country better. Studies have “found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas. “A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a not-for-profit association that promotes the benefits of making music.” (PBS, 2013). And according to Fran Smith in a 2009 article on Edutopia, the website of The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF), “Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork.”

Smith goes on to cite a 2005 Rand Corporation study which states, “can connect people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing,” meaning, basically, the arts can make a person’s life BETTER because they [the arts] are sweetening that person’s life, causing them to create closer social connections and bonds.

Music education can help with verbal skills, increase IQ, develop Spatial-Temporal skills. The brain works harder, causing increased test scores. Theater education can help with social anxiety and confidence, art education helps with motor skills and decision-making. The studies are out there for those who want to look.

Art Education plays a vital role and instead of ignoring those students, instead of promising something and then revoking it, the Smalltown School District (and by default ALL schools) should be CELEBRATING our student artists.

I can’t do much, but I can applaud these Senior students and I can write about this.

If you wish to join the discussion use the hashtag it #Weareseniorstoo so I can track it.

If you know of other stories like this, contact me via Twitter or my Facebook page and I’ll continue to bring this life. It’s time we took a cue from these Smalltown students and take a stand.