Re-commit to the arts | AspenTimes.com

Re-commit to the arts

Dear Editor:I feel compelled to comment on John Colson’s article of Jan. 23 regarding the music program in the Aspen public schools (“And the band played on …”). As one who has for years been an observer of said programs, as well as the occasional insider (as a substitute teacher) and a local professional musician, I feel the need to bring to light some inaccuracies in the story.While it is true that Nancy Beyea has been a steadfast force in the district with various musical ensembles, she was not the choral teacher at the time her sabbatical started. The statement in the article that her choral program suffered as a result of “horrible teaching” by her replacement is simply not true. Her replacement taught only instrumental music, and yes, that was a bad fit. Paul Dankers arrived (before her sabbatical began) in the fall of 2004 to attempt to resurrect the already faltering choral program from the grossly inadequate teacher he replaced. At that time, the student enrollment had already drastically dropped in the choral department, but not because of Ms. Beyea’s absence, as the article infers.From my numerous observations, Paul was teaching his vocal students the basic fundamentals of music with a great deal of rectitude and competence. In my opinion, he was a consummate professional. For unknown reasons, the administration changed course in the vocal department once again this past fall, as Mr. Dankers was attempting to re-build a program based in real musical integrity and learning. As a result of that personnel change (Mr. Dankers was not rehired for this school year), I wrote a letter to the administration as well as our elected school board members questioning their decision. Not one elected school board official, accountable to us, the voters, ever responded to me, and only one administrator answered, stating: “It was a personnel issue not subject to comment.”For over 25 years, I have marveled that in a town seemingly committed to the arts, with the various summer festivals and world-class artists that regale us year-round, our secondary schools have generally fallen short of any consistent modicum of excellence toward music education. And in keeping with societal trends, sports seem to rule the day; witness the newly regenerated district stadium and the ongoing controversy over the comings and goings of football coaches past and potentially future. (Not to mention their spouses!)Let us hope for our students’ sake that the music department in the Aspen schools can once and for all move forward and rise to the standard of excellence that we as a town expect and embrace.David DyerAspen

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