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Dayton schools aim to bring back music programs; seeks donations

Dayton Public Schools is trying to gradually bring back both high school marching bands and middle school instrumental music classes that have largely faded from the district in recent years.

Nancy Nerny, chair of the Dayton Public Schools Foundation, told the school board last month that the Foundation is taking donations of money and musical instruments to jump-start the Bring Back the Bands program.

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“The whole purpose of the music courses is to provide students another option in the curriculum,” said Nerny, a former school board member. “Our vision, and that of the superintendent, is a drumline in all six high schools … and introducing bands in our three middle schools.”

That likely will be a gradual process, as Nerny said the district is still taking inventory of all instruments available from years ago, as well as what individual programs and certified teachers remain in certain schools. She said many instrumental music teachers were transitioned to vocal music positions very early this decade.

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Multiple academic studies have shown that students who study music, as a whole, have higher grade-point averages and standardized test scores than those who don’t. Music offerings vary in Dayton-area schools, from school districts that offer numerous types of bands, choirs and classes, to others with minimal offerings.

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“I was shocked when I came to Dayton and we didn’t have high school bands,” said Rhonda Corr, who is finishing her first year as DPS superintendent. “We have to start somewhere, and starting with drumlines is a good place to bring it back. Pardon the pun, but we’re trying to drum up interest. Please check out your attic, see if you have things you can donate.”

DPS has continued to have some music offerings, including multiple bands and ensembles at Stivers School for the Arts, but they have not been consistent at all schools and some have been informal.

Nerny said the DPS Foundation is working with the Dayton Philharmonic volunteers, WDPR-FM and Twentig in seeking all types of instrument donations. They can be dropped off at DPS headquarters at Fourth and Ludlow downtown.

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“This is something doable,” Nerny said. “We like it because of the emotional appeal, and because we are convinced of the value of the arts, what it will do for the students as people.”

Nerny said the school district will have to review staffing and budget issues, but she hopes it can fund a music coordinator position. If at least one drumline is fully functioning this fall, that will give the program a visible example to build on fundraising.

“Once again, our playing fields will have enthusiastic halftime music, and our community will witness confident, disciplined DPS students performing at their best,” she said.

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