Thoughts of a Gilbert Music Alumni:

Dear Friends, Neighbors, School Board, and Administration,

30 years ago as a brand new 7th grader, I hadn't yet caught the fire that is a school music program. But, Larry Baedke, became one of the top most influential people in my life as he invited me to join the jazz band. There the fire caught hold and can never be extinguished. I've since learned why. Jazz and its blues roots are a uniquely American contribution to the art of music on par with a Bach Fugue or a Beethoven Symphony. American jazz created the foundation for rock, pop, country, bluegrass, R&B, soul, and the huge role that the many forms of American music have played in the modern world. It embodies the individualism, spontaneity, energy, and invention core to the American psyche and greatness. When I moved to Gilbert in 10th grade, I found out I had to be in marching band in order to be in jazz band. I naively tried to find a way around the requirement. I'm so glad I didn't thanks to Phil Hatler, the next guy to land on my "most influential" list. We have music educators of that same caliber and influence in Gilbert today that need our support. An irreplaceable and still driving force in my life is the electrifying rush of accomplishment that came after months of hard, hard, work culminating shoulder to shoulder with my closest friends as we raised the bleachers and discovered the power of music to thrill, chill, move, and inspire.

I've since gone on to get a degree in music education and now produce, write, and perform in my recording studio in Gilbert to great satisfaction. I even got to teach in the Gilbert High Band program. But, none of that compares with the powerful emotions I felt just a few weeks ago as my oldest daughter, now a senior horn player in my very own Gilbert Tiger Marching Pride, joined her closest friends in delivering a stunning and, to my critical ear, stellar performance of a tough yet inspiring program. Last night, I arrived at a Gilbert band concert just a little down from all the seemingly discouraging news we seem to be bombarded with these days. I look at all those kids up there and wondered what kind of future is waiting for them? Then the band played a piece that contained so much energy and optimism that I thought, "If those kids can do that, then all is well for their future!" As a parent, what is the value of watching your kids experience discipline, team work, commitment, achievement, and excellence at that level? Priceless!

I've achieved success outside of music that I attribute to what music has taught me. I see the same now in my own children. We donít teach music only to train the next Stravinsky. We teach music to nurture more compassionate, collaborative, creative, and inspiring future leaders, builders, inventors, engineers, lawyers, judges, law makers, teachers (of course) and all the rest of the fabric that makes a strong and enduring society. To reduce the quality of the musical education in the Gilbert School District does great detriment not only to the overall quality of education we deliver, but to the quality of life for the coming generations. The greatness of nations and communities is built in part on the greatness and dignity of its art, music, culture, and general creative spirit. In a world where arts and culture is not just declining, but becoming more negative and degrading, school music programs are the only access many young people have to the art forms that can and should elevate and inspire them, and enable them to perpetuate the greatness older generations have been blessed to know. To me, that is a stewardship for which we should all be accountable. In these tough economic times, we in Gilbert must now decide how we shall account for that stewardship. I for one say: Preserve what is great among us!

Jason Barney
December 11, 2009
Talmage Music: