By ALLYSON B. WILLOUGHBY
When I learned what the 2013-2014 Cassadaga Valley Central School budget proposed, I was saddened, shocked and outraged.
As a graduate and former participant in the music program, I can attest to all that the music program has to offer. And for as much credit as I give John Cross and Joseph Braeger for their influence on my life, I am becoming more and more aware of how important the elementary music program was to my development as a musician and as a human being. Were it not for Nicole Zenns and those elementary Christmas pageants, I never would have found my voice. It was her fourth- and fifth-grade chorus, and her direction of the Junior Minstrels that made me fall in love with singing, and her recommendation that led to my seven year membership in the Chautauqua Children's Chorale.
If it weren't for Mark Klose pulling me aside in the hallway in fifth grade to ask if I wanted to learn an instrument, I never would have picked up a flute. That first flute lesson led to seven years of concerts and recitals and allowed for opportunities to be a featured soloist with the Chautauqua Children's Chorale, as well as in the Senior High Band's performance at a national competition in Chicago in 2008. Elementary music is the backbone of our music program; it is in elementary school that young musicians - like I once was - are first introduced to sheet music, notes and scales.
Music has profoundly affected me as a person. If I had not been involved with the music program at Cassadaga Valley, I can say with utmost certainty that I would not be the person I am today. Being a music student taught me valuable life lessons about perseverance, responsibility and the reward of hard work. Those lessons were instilled in me in the elementary music classrooms of Mr. Klose and Mrs. Zenns, and stuck with me through the years I spent studying with Mr. Braeger and Mr. Cross - and beyond.
Those lessons were what gave me the drive and determination to put myself through college, earning both an associate's degree in music, and - on Saturday - a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in applied music. Being a musician made me a more creative, ambitious, confident, and all-around happier person.
When the elementary music program cut a full-time position in the 2011-2012 budget, it resulted the loss of elementary vocal ensembles and meant that elementary students were already no longer getting the same quality and amount of music education that they were before. Further reducing the amount of music instruction in the elementary school would be detrimental to the development of young musicians; I feel it safe to say that a further reduction in elementary music would mean the beginning of the end for the incredible program we have here in the Valley. If we don't start fostering that young talent early on, there won't be any talent left for Mr. Cross and Mr. Braeger to grow in the junior and senior high ensembles.
I would urge the Cassadaga Valley Central Board of Education to reconsider their plans to reduce elementary music instruction in the proposed budget. However, it seems as though the board has made up their minds.
And so I ask that before stepping into the voting booth Tuesday, voters in the Cassadaga Valley school district think carefully about the kind of future they want our students to have. Had it not been for my elementary-age introduction to music, I would not have grown into the mature, responsible and well-rounded adult I am today.
I would have been deprived of so many life-changing opportunities, and the thought of denying a future generation of CVCS students those same opportunities is a thought I can't bear to face.
Allyson R. Willoughby, a Cassadaga resident, is a member of the Cassadaga Valley Central School Class of 2008.