2017-04-16 / News

Former St. Charles student lobbies for more investment in music and the arts

By Jeanne Marcello
Staff Reporter

ST. CHARLES – During the April 8 St. Charles Community Schools Board of Education Retreat, former student, Joseph Wilkins, Jr., addressed the school board about the existing arts/performing arts programs and how it compares with others in the state and the region.

Wilkins graduated from St. Charles Schools in 2016 and went on to study music at Central Michigan University (CMU). The introduction to music class he is taking assigned students to return to the school where they graduated and observe and report about it. He visited St. Charles Schools about a month ago.

Wilkins said, “Having been to college, it really opened my eyes to [the different standards between schools]. It really opened my eyes to the standard they grew up with, a certain pedigree. I came back to St. Charles. It raised some concerns about our arts program.”

He wondered how St. Charles is going to approach the arts, moving forward.

Wilkins said, “[St. Charles] passed a bond millage for new facilities. But one of the things that was supposed to be included was new rows of lockers installed for band students and their instruments.” He explained that instruments have to be left in the hallways.

Superintendent Michael Decker responded by saying, “We still have money from the bond. We spent about $9,000 and have $6,000 to go.”

Decker also said, “The gym is not just for athletes. I [wish] I could have added the auditorium to the bond, like I tried, but failed.” He mentioned adding sound dampening panels to improve the acoustics in the gym.

Decker said, “I came from a school that had band, choir and orchestra. Our band instruments had to be stored in the hallway. We have work to do. But when you see Western Michigan, they have the DeVos and [other major financial supporters].”

Wilkins continued by comparing the St. Charles arts program with the neighboring Chesaning school district. “Chesaning has lockers for school and student [musical] instruments,” he said.

He explained he attended the high school’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. “It was nice,” he said. But then talked about how music for the production was a Midi sound track for students to sing along. “If I were a band instructor, I would’ve jumped at the chance to provide live accompaniment,” Wilkins said. He recommended the drama and music departments collaborate.

“I see the standard to which we’re held, and then I see the standards to which Chesaning is held. They’re doing so many productions. Chesaning has an educated drama director. Chesaning’s drama club is the size of St. Charles’ graduating class,” Wilkins said. He listed several state drama awards Chesaning won this past year.

Wilkins expressed concern that band/ vocal music teacher Matthew Wicke has to set up chairs before class by himself to save time during class.

School board member Stacey Klump asked Wilkins, “Tell me what contributed to your passion for the arts [and specifically band]?”

Wilkins responded, “Performing with the Saginaw Bay Orchestra and other area bands.”

School board president Pete Volk said, “The point you brought up about collaborating between the music and drama programs, I wonder if that’s ever been attempted here.”

Klump explained once Wilkins saw what other schools have, it’s no wonder he would want that for St. Charles. She said, “The quality of a program is more passion.”

Wilkins said, “Presentation is key. I believe more should be done to further our music program.”

Decker asked if Wilkins had talked with Wicke about his observations.

Wilkins said he hadn’t, but acknowledged there’s more going on than he was aware.

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