WESTFIELD - Preserve Westfield's music program.
That was the message from New York State School Music Association's, or NYSSMA's, Zone 1 Representative Michael Robertson.
Robertson spoke to the Westfield Academy and Central School's Board of Education during public comment and complimented the district's continued excellence in music education.
Photo by Jenna Loughlin
New York State School Music Association’s Zone 1 Representative Michael Robertson asked the Westfield Academy and Central School Board of Education to preserve the district’s music program.
"I wanted to make sure you're aware that it's known throughout our region and really, thanks to Mr. (Kent) Knappenberger, throughout the state that your program is just lauded and admired everywhere," Robertson said. "The quantity of students that you have participating in your program and the quality of education they receive from your outstanding music teachers is just staggering."
Robertson also implored the board to continue its funding of Westfield's music department as it creates its budget for the coming school year.
"I hope that you will do everything you can to consider the preservation of this absolute gem, this absolute treasure of a program," he said.
Robertson shared one of the best moments he said he has had in the four years he has been a representative with the board. When students go to the solo festival to audition for various All-States, each solo festival sheet comes across his desk. Robertson remembered a moment two and a half years ago when then Westfield student Nathan Kitchen played a level 6 bassoon solo and received a 100, meaning he would qualify for Conference All-State.
"Very, very fine young man," Robertson said. "One of the just sterling examples of the well-rounded students that are here at Westfield."
Robertson placed the sheet into Westfield's folder and waited to see Westfield music teacher Helen Ihasz's reaction when she saw it. When she did, Robertson said Ihasz broke down crying with happiness and everything she said was "him," "us," "our program," "Nathan."
"The word I never came into it until she said, 'I am so proud of him,'" Robertson said. "These are your music teachers. They're all like this."
Robertson went on to call Westfield's music program "phenomenal" and said he considers Knappenberger a personal hero. He also brought up how many students are selected to Conference All-State is the greatest example of a music program's effectiveness, noting Westfield had four selected last year. Robertson compared that number to other, larger schools in the area such as Grand Island, Clarence, Orchard Park and Sweet Home, all of which had only three students selected.
"That's just what you do here," he said. "You stand up to the so-called big boys and stand toe-to-toe with them.
"I hope that you'll give every possible consideration to again preserving this marvelous, marvelous program," Robertson said.
"I think that it is a really special thing to hear that kind of stuff about our kids," board member Jeffrey Greabell said. "I'd like to thank you for taking your time to come down and share with us tonight. It is very meaningful as far as I'm concerned."
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