Getting a brickbat instead of kudos for praising the special Long Beach Symphony concert given for schoolchildren Feb. 9 was surprising.
In response to Geri Bohlen's righteous indignation in her March 11 letter that I had a patronizing tone, may I say I can readily understand her justified pride in the Long Beach Unified School District's excellent music program, and I applaud her volunteer efforts. And she is absolutely on mark when she says, "other school districts look with envy on the program." It is precisely that envy that prompted my letter to the editor.
I'm sorry if I inadvertently applied my paint brush to all 3,000 Long Beach schoolchildren who attended. I probably should have explained that I spoke only for the 300 children who were there from another district. It seems that through the persistent efforts of a teacher outside the Long Beach district, permission was granted for 300 children from her school to join the event. I merely tried to express the wonder of the experience for them and a "thank you" for those who arranged it.
As Ms. Bohlen has conceded, "many school districts in California are deprived of good music programs." I know of a district whose elementary school music program consists of one vocal music teacher for all the district's fifth- and sixth-graders, instrumental instruction is almost non-existent, and it has been without a music textbook for quite a while.
Is the district to blame? With school funds drying up, schools have hard choices to make. This was not always the case. There was a time when this district had an outstanding program: a music coordinator who, among other activities, conducted workshops for teachers; glee clubs and folk dancing were encouraged in all schools; instrumental instruction was available to everyone; well-stocked libraries of graded classical music and folk dance record albums; and the weekly Standard School Radio Broadcasts of classical music were required listening in the upper grades. This district was also selected to introduce the comprehensive Orf Shulewerk program, headed by Madam Gertrude Orf.
How come, when we speak of the "state of the arts," we mean technology? How about the state of the creative arts? The business of education is not only to prepare our children to earn a living, but to introduce them to the artistic creations of the human spirit, which will help them enjoy living. Classical music is an integral part of that creative legacy.
So, Ms. Bohlen, lower your lance, milady! Joust not with me. We are both enlisted in the same cause.