Editorial: Schreiber music students deserve better solutions

Editorial Board

For seven years straight, the Port Washington Union Free School District has been named one of The Best Communities for Music Education in the United States.  Still, some reforms are necessary in order to make Schreiber’s music program live up to this title that they proudly tout. 

The most glaring issue in Schreiber’s music department is the scheduling issues students —particularly seniors—face.  Selective classes such as Mixed Choir, Wind Ensemble, and Symphonic Orchestra compete with other niche classes like research and AP languages.  Some seniors deal with this by dropping into lower level ensembles or even freshman music classes, but this is far from ideal.  Students are thus forced to choose between pursuing a musical passion and taking the rigorous academic classes they desire.  

Scheduling is an admittedly difficult puzzle to solve, especially given that making an adjustment to help one group of students could hurt another.  However, this issue arises nearly every year and impacts a sizable number of students, yet the administration has not made lasting change on it.  Particularly regarding classes with only one section (such as AP Latin and research), special care should be taken to make it possible for students to enroll in both these classes and their music ensemble. Seniors should be prioritized in scheduling and the school should honor their dedication throughout their high school careers, while also recognizing that they may never have a chance to pursue music education again. 

Additionally, students whose only musical outlets are extracurricular will soon run into another problem: they are not allowed to become, or remain, members of the Tri-M Music Honor Society.  Tri-M’s website states that “[members] must have been enrolled in a school-sponsored music ensemble and/or class for at least one semester of the current school year.”  One might assume that members of the multiple extracurricular music ensembles sponsored by Schreiber — that meet in the school and are advised by district teachers — would be eligible for Tri-M membership.  This year, though, several longstanding Tri-M members could not return, with some being forced to give up board positions, because they could not fit a music class in their schedule. 

The situation may strike students as a double standard; the Art Honor Society, which is the closest in subject matter to Tri-M, stipulates on their website, “Members may remain active during such time when there are no visual arts on their class schedules as long as they fulfill all of the other requirements each year.”  These other requirements include volunteer hours, meeting attendance, and other general standards that do not involve enrollment in an arts class.  

Considering these disparities, the school should consider students who participate in extracurricular music ensembles for membership in Tri-M; they too deserve recognition for their hard work and talent, and there is no official reason they should be left out.  If Schreiber cannot address the scheduling issues that cause these conflicts, the least it can do is work towards compromised solutions and prioritizing seniors who may never pursue a music course or ensemble again.