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updated: 12/9/2013 3:08 PM

Dist. 204 may move beginning music to sixth grade

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Indian Prairie Unit District 204 is considering changes to its music program next fall that could shift the year students begin playing an instrument from fifth grade to sixth grade.

Music educators have been considering changes to the curriculum for about a year and a half, looking for ways to maintain the musical excellence of a district that has won Grammys for high school music programs and has two schools and one teacher in the running for the prestigious awards this year.

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The school board is scheduled to hear a presentation about proposed music program changes during its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Crouse Education Center, 780 Shoreline Drive, Aurora.

In a memo about the possible changes, music educators say their research found the year a student starts playing an instrument does not significantly affect his or her ability to become highly skilled in band or orchestra. Starting in sixth grade instead of fifth also was found not to significantly change the number of students enrolled in music programs or student retention once they begin.

Instead, access to introductory programs, consistent attendance at music classes and quality instruction lead to student success in instrumental music, educators said.

Proposed changes would suspend fifth-grade band and orchestra instruction in full ensembles and small groups next school year, but fifth-graders and their parents could participate in an introductory program beginning in January 2015. The changes also call for sixth-grade music instruction in small groups divided by instrument to begin next fall and a completely redesigned sixth-grade music program to begin in fall 2015.

The board is not expected to vote on music curriculum changes on Monday night.

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