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Letter: Students richly benefit from education in arts

Students richly benefit from education in arts

I am a graduate of Iroquois High School from the class of 1986. I was amongst the first of Bill Staebell’s students when he started at Iroquois my sophomore year. To say he has had an influence on my life is an understatement. In fact, whenever anyone asks how I got started on my career path, I say I had a high school teacher who had a profound influence on my life.

Today I have the good fortune to represent an esteemed roster of symphonic conductors and artists who regularly perform at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Canada’s National Arts Centre, Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto and all other leading concert halls across North America. For me, it all started playing bass at Iroquois, but I feel so fortunate to have had Staebell’s guidance in those early years to help me as both a musician and a person.

The recent News story, “Music teacher’s retirement strikes sour note at Iroquois,” gave me real pause and disappointment. As an arts professional, I see everyday how music, and all the performing arts, enrich our lives and make us more well-rounded people and yet, time and again, they are some of the first programs to get cut from school budgets. Countless research studies clearly show the positive effects of arts education on student academic achievement and creativity – improving test scores and fostering students’ competitiveness in the workforce. In order to effectively compete in the global economy, business leaders are increasingly looking for employees who are creative, collaborative and innovative thinkers. A greater investment in the arts is an effective way to equip today’s students with the skills they will need to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow.

I’d hate to see my alma mater fall victim to this pattern of arts education funding getting cut and having Iroquois become another frustrating statistic. Having worked in the nonprofit arts, I know tough budget decisions affect programming and hiring, but I plead that the Iroquois string teacher position be kept full time so all current and future students may have the same opportunity I was given 30 years ago.

Peter Throm

Ann Arbor, Mich.