MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Columbia High School Music Parents’ Association appealed to the South Orange Maplewood School District to add teachers to CHS’s music program. Currently, there are only three directors – one each for various band, orchestra, and chorus programs, plus music theory and music technology. Nearly 700 students, more than 32% of the school population, take a music class each year. CHSMPA is asking the district to bring on an additional two full-time and one part-time instructors, which would put CHS on par with high school music programs in neighboring towns, such as West Orange.
During the Public Speaks portion of the Sept. 16 Board of Education meeting, Yvette Holowczak, CHSMPA co-president, said “Over 230 students were shut out of music classes this year, which is unfortunate.” Although the district has a new state-of-the-art music tech lab, 113 students were shut out of the music technology class, she reported. “It’s just impossible for three music teachers to cover the number of classes needed,” and raising class size should not be considered as a solution, she said.
Superintendent Dr. Ronald Taylor responded that “this is a great time to make the case that you made, as we enter budget season,” and said he has the arts in mind for next year. “It is desheartening to hear that so many students were denied access to those courses, and that definitely raises this in my priority for our discussions” concerning budget planning, he said.
To support music in the high school, CHSMPA has in the last few years purchased and donated a baby grand piano for the choir room; multiple cellos, basses, and violins; a xylophone; headsets for use backstage at events; and a new quality sound system for the band room. Since 2017, the organization has raised and spent more than $30,000.
CHSMPA Co-President Jennifer Muesel said after the board meeting, “CHSMPA strives to ensure that every student has an instrument to use in school, but only the Board and the Superintendent can enable students to access their desired music activity – which currently isn’t possible without additional faculty. Being part of a music program helps students connect to each other and their school, and can boost their achievements in other academic areas.”
Holowczak added, “We are fortunate to have three extremely talented music directors who are passionate and committed to the students at CHS. With more support they could not only teach more students, but also seek their own professional development which in turn helps enrich our programs even more.”
The Columbia High School Music Parents’ Association (CHSMPA) was established in 1994 as an outgrowth of a previous Band Parents Association. CHSMPA was officially incorporated in 2006 and received nonprofit status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2007. The organization was created to ensure CHS retained a strong music program following school budget crises in New Jersey and a reduction in funding for the arts overall. It is governed by a Board of parent volunteers who work directly with band, orchestra, and choral music directors as well as the district’s fine arts supervisor to ensure all programs stay strong. The CHS music program features award-winning band, orchestra, choral, and musical theatre offerings, including an annual musical production. For more information, visit www.chsmpa.org.