The music program in schools is so beneficial to students

Theresa Axford, superintendent for the Monroe County School District, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to talk about what’s going on in the schools.

The music and band program in the schools is really quite spectacular.

Axford said, “We had our all county band concert last Saturday at Marathon High School and it was just amazing. It’s the top musicians from all of our middle schools, and our high schools. So they do two performances, there’s a middle school band concert, and a high school band concert. These students are playing very challenging music and just doing an incredible job with it. The way all county band works is the students actually try out for it and once they are in all county band, they have guest conductors. This is an opportunity for our teachers as well. It’s like professional learning, as well, because the teachers watch these guest conductors, as they build the music program and as they work with students up until the final concert date, and teachers get opportunities to see other conductors work. That is one of the best things that you can do because you get a lot of pointers that way. I was in a form of all county band when I was in high school and it was in the Philadelphia area. We had a guest conductor. It was Eugene Ormandy of the Philadelphia Orchestra. It was one of the most inspiring events of my life, to see how conductors interpret the music. That’s what the students have an opportunity to do is work with a different conductor other than their normal band director, and watch how they interpret the music. So I attended the concert, it was just amazing. The kids are so proud of themselves. They do such amazing work that it’s really good.”

There is also a program in Monroe County for teachers called the VIEW or Visiting Innovative Educators Workplaces.

Axford said, “Teachers go and visit other schools and go into other teachers classrooms. It has that same impact because teachers really like to learn from each other, and they want to know what’s going on in other classrooms. So when I’m at all county band, I just think those two programs work so well for educators, as well as students. We’re trying to have our students experience music in many different ways. For instance, we have a great partnership with the South Florida Symphony. Sabrina Maria Alfonso actually went to HOB school and so she has a very tender spot for the Keys and Keys schools in her whole repertoire. It’s part of her heart to come down here and give these kids an opportunity to hear symphonic music. We have 52% of our students are at the poverty level and a lot of people don’t realize that because affluence is the way people think of the Keys, but that’s not the case. So we know that we need to expose the students to as many things as possible to enrich their lives in the future and of course, music is one of those things that really do enrich our lives. If you do a roll call at one of those band concerts, most of the kids are honor students, most of the kids plan to go to college or do some work post secondary. So it just goes hand in hand with high level of performance band.”

School officials traveled to Tallahassee to talk to our legislators.

Axford said, “I’m going back on this Wednesday, just to keep what we need to do in focus for folks, that’s one of the reasons that we go up there is it helps prioritize for our Senators and our state Representatives what this affordable housing can mean for the Keys. We got into the budget for $9 million in the House. So we’re in the House budget. But we want to restore Bruce Hall on United Street so that we can move the admin people out. There’s 52 People that work on Trumbo, we’ve got to move them out. Then that property will be laid bare for 150 units of affordable housing. So we’re working on a ground lease right now with Integra, but it would be very helpful before they break ground to know that that Admin Building is out of there, and they’ve got a way for doing what they need to do in terms of the property. I’m just really committed to making that happen. Of course, for the community, Bruce Hall, it’s a beautiful old building on United Street that was formally a school and Mary Bruce was the principal. That’s why it’s called Bruce Hall, but it was part of an Episcopal ecclesiastical seminary. It was built in 1925. So it is 100 years old, and it is on the historic registry. So we’re trying to renovate that and it would kind of fit in because City Hall, which is the former Glen Archer School, is right down there on the corner of United and White. So it would be kind of a little bit of a government center right there, if we were able to do this, and something the city can be very proud of. Of course Key West is known for its history. So I’m just hoping that we’re going to be able to be successful. We got $2 million in the last session, and we’re looking and asking for $9 million in this session. So just putting a face on that request is why we go up there and talk to people.”