Dear Fellow Chatham Parents and Citizens,

By now, many of you have received the annual Chatham Music and Theater Boosters (CMTB) donation letter. As co-presidents of CMTB,  we would like to invite you to join the efforts of a wonderful community group who take an active role in the support of our district-wide Performing Arts programs.

In addition to thanking you in advance for your support of CMTB’s fundraising efforts, we would also like to mention the importance of participation in the Performing Arts. In our personal experience raising a few kids who were/are very involved in these programs in our wonderful schools, we have grown to place high value on the lessons taught through participation in experiences such as Band, Chorus, Orchestra, and Theater.

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Our children have a myriad of wonderful choices and activities in which to immerse themselves. They choose from countless extracurricular sports teams, academic clubs, and lessons. We run these kids hard, and that is a good thing - by keeping them busy, we keep them out of trouble while helping them embrace their interests and passions. Moreover, by involving them in diverse activities, they become well-rounded people. As parents, we have experienced the value of the Performing Arts in our children’s academic and social development.  These offerings are not only valuable because they are enjoyable to participate in - their importance goes much deeper.

In recent years, there has been a National push to focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in school systems around the country. This focus is with great merit, as all of us are accustomed to reading report after report on how the United States has been falling behind other nations in the critically important Science and Math subjects. As economies continue to become more global and technology is increasingly used to leverage innovation, it goes without saying that it makes great sense to insure our kids are tooled appropriately.

But guess what? Performing Arts programs complement STEM, and do so critically. Getting kids involved in music at an early age has been repeatedly shown to improve learning in all subjects – not just music. Musical training helps develop the left side of the brain, known to be most involved with language processing. Many studies bear this out, including a 2007 University of Kansas study showing that students in elementary schools with superior music education programs scored 20% higher in English and Math on standardized tests, compared to schools with low-quality music programs.  Involvement in the Arts is not only associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill, but has also been cited to improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork. The Performing Arts is one puzzle piece among several that can help students excel across disciplines - and the colleges and universities to which they will apply for admission know this quite well.

In addition to academic performance, getting kids involved in the Performing Arts at early ages improves communication skills, as well as confidence in general. Caroline and I have two boys in college now, and a daughter in high school. From watching them (and from getting to know so many of their Band, Chorus, Orchestra, and Theater friends) we have seen firsthand how effective our Performing Arts programs are in turning shy kids into confident and creative ones.  We watched one of our sons turn from a shy, quiet boy into a confident and expressive young man. You can’t imagine our shock and pride in watching Will, who we thought was our “quiet one,” perform in The Drowsy Chaperone; he played the flamboyant Latin-lover “Aldolpho,” and he made our jaws drop! We specifically credit his metamorphosis to his participation in the many plays, musicals, instrumental and choral groups he was involved in. We are just starting to see what these programs are doing for our freshman daughter through her involvement in the Band program.

We hope you will consider making a donation to CMTB to support our outstanding Performing Arts programs across the district.  More importantly, we hope that you will continue to encourage your child’s participation in these valuable programs from elementary through high school. The Performing Arts are part of a balanced education, providing participants with the essential skills, knowledge, and confidence they need to be productive, college and career-ready citizens. Help them create. Help them become more confident as young adults. Help them learn about leadership and teamwork. Help them become master communicators. Help them with their test scores...and help them stand out!

Thank you for reading our letter, and we hope your children have an amazing year in our great town and outstanding school system.

Sal and Caroline Arnuk, CMTB co-Presidents

Hall Road, Chatham, NJ