Choir funding falls flat
November 12, 2016
Budget woes are nothing new in the ICCSD, with large amounts of students across the district. Funding doesn’t always keep pace with growth in students. This has osmosed as a problem in the swiftly expanding choir department at West, as well. With 375 students enrolled in five curricular choirs, the department is one of the largest in the state.
“$2,000 is given to help our curricular choirs. This goes a long way in allowing us to purchase new music and tune pianos. We supplement the rest of those costs with donations and help from the music auxiliary,” choir director Jeff Knutson said.
To put things in perspective, a new piece of music generally costs about $1.25 to $2.50 a copy. While the department can circumvent this by using public domain music or music where the copyright has expired, this isn’t ideal.
“We have needed to get creative when purchasing music. Luckily, West Music has provided us with a discount for purchasing music. In addition, we try to reuse music from our library as well as free music from CPDL.org, an online library of choir music that is free to use,” said Knutson.
“A lot of times, we don’t even have enough music for our whole choirs. It’s difficult to share and we can make it work, but it can be three to a copy sometimes and that’s ridiculous,” said Concert Choir member Andrea Childs ‘17. The budget is fixed and doesn’t change with the number of students enrolled in the department.
“As we look at a music program that has grown substantially over the past 10 years, it is important to note that costs rise with this. However, with Liberty High opening, this will need to wait until we determine our numbers for next year,” Knutson said.
West High has one of the strongest and largest choral departments in the state, traditionally winning awards at the State Large Group contest in May. As the choir rises, as do costs.
“We’ve needed to purchase new tuxedos and dresses for concerts and music has gotten expensive. With each piece costing around $2 per student, expenses add up quickly,” said Knutson. When the district funding falls short, other groups step up to help.
“Donations are another way that we can make the budget work. We have very generous parents who value the experiences their students have in choir.” Knutson said. In addition to individual donors, there is the music auxiliary.
“The music auxiliary helps every music program in the district, so a good amount of the funds will go to instrument repair, which is necessary to help the band and orchestra programs continue to involve any student who wants to play an instrument. For the choir, the auxiliary completely covers the cost of the All-State Festival, which is very helpful to us,“ Knutson said.
Events like the Music Playathon and the Music Auxiliary Car Wash raise money over the course of the year and the department has individual fundraisers where students can sell fruit and other items.
“As the numbers continue to grow, it is clear that choir is supported here. We will continue to supplement our budget in order to provide amazing experiences for the students,” Knutson said.
“For such an amazing program . . . there needs to be more funding. How much is there for sports? A lot, probably. Music is just as important,” Childs said.