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Germantown School Board OKs changes to high school music program

Band director assures Wall of Sound will remain excellent

Jan. 28, 2014

Germantown — Tension eased for Germantown High School faculty and administration when the proposed Wall of Sound marching band program changes passed unanimously at Germantown's School Board meeting on Monday.

At the previous School Board meeting Jan. 13, a vote was stopped when junior Hope Burnham, a member of the Wall of Sound color guard pleaded for a delay "in the spirit of making the best possible decision for your students...to hear what the students and parents think."

The changes would place students into a band class that is appropriate for both their grade and ability levels and provide schedule flexibility. The downside is that all of the Wall of Sound students would not meet every day, Band Director James Barnes said Jan. 13.

Initially, the proposed Wall of Sound changes took parents and students by surprise.

The reason students and parents were not told of the change to the Wall of Sound sooner was because "it was a curriculum issue," Barnes said. "The decision was made by teachers and staff. That's the process....Our hope was once it was made official we'd notify (everyone)."

The School Board's delay allowed an information session to be held on Jan. 23, where nearly 60 parents and a few students attended.

Both band directors, James Barnes and Jon Bell answered all the questions tossed to them at the session, said board member Lester Spies, who attended the meeting.

There were "some concerns by parents," Spies said. "The biggest concern (being) fear of change."

Parents expressed worry that the new schedule changes, splitting more than 100 band members into three separate classes, would compromise the program and its accomplishments.

"Keeping excellence" in the school's music program was a phrase reiterated by Barnes throughout the meetings. He claimed that once they are "practicing the new approach, fear will subside."

Barnes also met separately with students during school to ease their worries.

Students had the misconception that it would mean more practice time above the 21/2 hours for one day a week, which is currently set aside, he said.

Barnes also assured the students that it would not interfere with their other extra-curricular activities.

No one spoke in opposition to the proposed changes during Monday's meeting.

"I am pleased with the process with the School Board and administration," Barnes said. "Anytime there is a change to something positive, there is always concern."

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