Teachers and administrators believe moving instrumental and vocal music classes to Iola Middle School will result in a better learning experience.
“I’m excited to be here,” said Larry Lillard, band instructor.
“It’s going to make a lot of difference with me having more contact time with students,” noted Lillard, whose classroom was formerly in the Bowlus Fine Arts Center. Lillard will hold forth in the room from 11 a.m. until the end of each school day.
In the mornings, Greta Adams will instruct vocal music in the same room and intends to start a strings class elsewhere in the building.
Prior to this year, music students went to the Bowlus for each class, which took a minimum of five minutes each way, Lillard said.
“The time element has been my big concern all along,” Principal Jack Stanley said. “Music and fine arts are very important parts of students’ educations and I think we can do better having instrumental and vocal music in the middle school. The additional time in class means we can do much more.”
“Often at the Bowlus I’d want to do a little more, something specific to help the middle school students, but would run out of time and have to put it off until the next day, or not do it at all,” he said. “We’ll be able to accomplish much more here.”
Enrolled in instrumental music are 40 seventh and eighth graders who will form a marching band for performances including the Sept. 15 state fair, Farm-City Days in October and the Veterans Day parade in November. Thirty sixth graders also are enrolled.
The bucket brigade, an innovative project Lillard started after having a similar group at Marmaton Valley High School, has drawn interest of about 50 of the school’s 288 students. The brigade does catchy percussion performances by banging on buckets and metal trash cans.
Greta Adams has 85 seventh and eighth graders enrolled in vocal music, along with 47 sixth graders.
THE MOVE was prompted by financial considerations by the Board of Education when state aid cuts mounted the past two years.
Figures Dr. Craig Neuenswander, superintendent of schools, gave board members indicated the move would save nearly $84,000 — primarily through the elimination of a technology teacher and paraprofessional. The room where music is now taught is the former technology lab. The tech teacher and para were paid a combination of $61,000. Busing costs incurred $16,300; use of the Bowlus classrooms another $6,500.
Stanley said earlier this year that enrollment in technology courses had waned.
The only cost of consequence to make the change, other than labor to prepare the room, was $1,286 for 31 new music stands. Lillard said the district had two sets of drums and he didn’t anticipate having to buy any instruments immediately.
MUSIC ROOMS at the Bowlus are designed acoustically for that purpose but Lillard said little if anything would be lost from that perspective with the move.
“The new music room is carpeted and it has sound-absorbing tile in the ceiling,” he said.
“The (south) wall between the music room and other classrooms is the old exterior wall of the school” — thick enough to keep music made by IMS students from interfering with other classes, Stanley added.
“There’s a street right outside the room so the seventh and eighth graders can practice marching there,” Lillard said. “The neighbors will enjoy that. I know when we have marching practice on streets near the Bowlus, we have neighbors who come out to watch.”