Aspen schools tune in to music program needs |

Aspen schools tune in to music program needs

With the hiring of two new music teachers, establishment of a music outreach program and an overall “rededication” to music programs, the Aspen School District is dashing concerns that it’s neglecting the discipline at the middle and high school level.

Nancy Beyea and Micah Harford have been hired as the middle and high school’s new vocal and instrumental music teachers, respectively.

“There was a rumor about cutting back on the music program – I don’t know where it came from – because we had no plans to cut back on the music program,” said Tom Farrell, Aspen School District superintendent.

“Our music program has never been real strong instrumentally, and recently we’ve seen a decline in the numbers at the high school level,” Farrell said. “So we wanted people to come in and put more of an emphasis on the high school level. Now we hope the program will be strong kindergarten through 12th grade.”

Farrell, middle school Principal Griff Smith, and high school Principal Kendall Evans recently brainstormed on developing a new direction for the music programs for the district’s middle and high school students, according to Farrell.

“We knew we couldn’t continue as we were, because it wasn’t really working,” Farrell said. Lack of student interest and scheduling time for music programs was the crux of the issue, he said.

“The sad thing is that for years we’ve emphasized academics and now that academics are coming along quite well, we’re able to put greater emphasis on the areas we’ve shunned in the past, and music is one of them,” Farrell said.

Both new music teachers are agreeable to working around students’ already-tight schedules to make music available, Farrell said. That includes holding practices and classes before and after school.

Beyea also has a strong reputation for building music programs.

“She’s a tough teacher, but the reports are that she’s really good and hopefully she’ll be here for awhile,” Farrell said.

The district has also begun “reaching out” to area musicians in hopes of teaming local talents with aspiring music students.

“For the first time in awhile, we’re really trying to emphasize reaching out to the community, and what I mean by that is this is a very strong community, musically,” Farrell said. “So we’re working with local musicians, like Jimmy Ibbotson, Bobby Mason and Robert Harth of the music festival.

“We want to take advantage of the talent we have here locally for the kids, and when we’ve reached out to these people, they were delighted to help us,” he said. “We’d just never asked them before.”

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