The following letter to the editor was submitted in response to Cheektowaga Chronicle’s article about Tuesday’s public hearing about Charter School for the Arts. The viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions or viewpoints of Crabapple Media, LLC and Cheektowaga Chronicle.
Though I just graduated from Cheektowaga Central High School just a few months ago, I find it my duty to speak out in favor of my alma mater and its incredible, already existing arts program. If it were not for the passion and drive of my teachers at Central, I wouldn’t be going to Syracuse University in the fall on a music scholarship. This move is a completely unnecessary reason to increase taxes and take jobs away from hard-working teachers at Cheektowaga Central.
As the 2018 class recipient of the ‘Drama Award’ and the ‘Senior Vocalist of the Year Award,’ I have been heavily involved the arts programs at Cheektowaga Central since elementary school. It is in the early grades that CCSD introduces required, curriculum-based art and music classes. These classes peaked my interest as a young student, as did the determination and passion Mrs. Karen Robinson, K-5 music teacher at Union East, has for teaching music. She has been an inspiration for me, going back to the days of 4th-grade chorus. While at the elementary school, I performed in multiple talent shows, as well as assemblies about diversity and culture for the rest of the school. These are some of my first experiences on stage that helped lay a foundation for my passion.
Also at UE, Mr. Kacy Dolan, band director takes kids in who want to learn an instrument at no cost to the student for lessons. I took trumpet lessons from Mr. Dolan from grades 4-8, all during the school day, never charging a penny for him to do so. Those lessons pay off as kids learn with each other during band rehearsals, which, until grade 9, are typically twice a week, during the regular school day.
When a student at Central enters the 6th grade and moves across the parking lot to the middle school, they are followed by their 4th-grade band teacher and are met by Mrs. Kim Harrison, music teacher and chorus director. This dynamic duo of music teachers is like no other in Western New York, as they each run more than 5 groups during the day, and more after school at no cost to the students. Joining Mrs. Harrison in the music classroom is Mrs. Rachel Williams, they operate a very hands-on and NYS curriculum-based music class, where students write music and learn to play instruments. This music class is required for all students to take for 20 weeks every year while in middle school. Apart from regular band and chorus (and the free lessons that come with), these highly skilled teachers run groups including jazz bands, a cappella groups, women’s choruses, as well as the opportunity to take part in the middle school musicals.
After the MS music teachers have trained these students for four years, Mr. Shawn Rydzik and Mr. John Mowers take them into the high school with open arms, offering multiple groups and ensembles for kids to join on campus. Students are given vocal and instrumental lessons throughout the school day. In addition to performance-based music classes, Music Theory is offered in two parts, Music in our lives is also included as an elective for students. In these National Core Arts, curriculum-based music courses, the use of drums, guitar and composition technology brings this music department into the 21st century.
In my personal experience, this is where I grew the most as a performer and student. While maintaining a high GPA, I was able to dive head first into the arts programs at CCHS, while also participating in JV and Varsity sports, something not offered at Charter School of the Arts.
It is because of the enthusiasm my teachers at Central brought into the classroom that pushed me to make my professional theatre debut in Buffalo this past March, music directing another professional show in May. It’s thanks to the opportunities I had to explore the world of arts at Cheektowaga Central that got me not only into Syracuse University, but a music director’s scholarship given to a select few each year as well.
Cheektowaga Central offers so many amazing groups and clubs to all students as it is, directed by some of the highest caliber arts teachers in Western New York. This proposed Charter School has already confirmed that they are not going to offer the classes that make them an “arts” school during the school day, and they will not even be run by teachers at the school.. They are going to be run after school hours by outside groups.
There is no need to cut 25+ teachers, raise taxes greatly, and eliminate the already existing arts programs at Central just to open a whole new school for what CCSD already offers, plus a dance class.
Jack Kreuzer is a 2018 Cheektowaga Central graduate
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