British Columbia

Protesters rally against Vancouver School Board's proposed band and strings program cuts

Dozens of teachers, students and musicians attended a rally in front of Van Tech Secondary School, Tuesday night, to protest proposed cuts to band and strings program at Vancouver's elementary schools.

The proposed cuts would save the school board about $400,000

Students and teachers perform as part of a rally against the VSB's proposed cuts to band and string programs in Vancouver. (Kamil Karamali/CBC)

Dozens of teachers, students and musicians attended a rally in front of Van Tech Secondary School, Tuesday night, to protest proposed cuts to band and strings program at Vancouver's elementary schools.

The rally marks the beginning of the Vancouver School Board's public consultation process on the proposed cuts, which will affect about 1,600 students from 44 schools and save about $400,000 of an expected $24-million budgetary shortfall for the upcoming school year. 

"It's the students we're concerned about because it's such a fantastic opportunity for them," said Michael Dirk, one of seven band and strings teachers who would be affected by the cuts. 

"Pedagogically, it's a fantastic time for their kinesthetics to develop and find their way on their instruments, and then they really blossom and take off at the secondary level."

Tom Davis, one of the student organizers of the rally, agrees. He said he started piano lessons at the age of six and joined the band and strings program at school as soon as he could. 

"It's really important for kids at young ages to start this, because sometimes high school gets really busy," he said. "You really find that kids who start at a younger age seem really passionate, and they want to take what they learn in elementary school, in secondary school, further."

Vancouver high school student Tom Davis was one of the organizers of the rally. (CBC)

Davis said the high school band programs count on feeder schools so more experienced students can mentor those just starting out. 

"It really improves the musicianship of the entire program, not just each individual class," he said. 

Many of those opposing the cuts, including Dirk, have pointed out that some students in Vancouver don't have access to instruments and music education at home or outside of school. 

Christin Reardon MacLellan. president of the Coalition for Music Education in B.C., said this is the fifth time in seven years the VSB has proposed cuts to elementary school music programs.

Kamil Karamali

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