Reading that Indian Prairie Unit District 204 is going to begin band and orchestra in sixth grade is astounding. My hope is that other districts do not see this as a means to save money.
Research shows that music is a language learned through experience and over time. The younger a child is when they learn any language is beneficial, and waiting until middle school to begin serious music study is foolhardy. Students become self-conscious around fifth and sixth grade and are less willing to take the risks necessary to become proficient musicians.
Why people think music is an "extra" is totally wrong. It is important enough to have state standards. Not every child has the desire to play sports and music offers them a different way to learn to work as a team. It also reinforces the idea of commitment, dedication and hard work.
Music should be a part of every student's schooling in elementary and middle school and orchestra and band should be offered to those interested not later than fourth grade and throughout their remaining school years. To deny this opportunity is to deny a well rounded education to all students, including those with the desire to pursue music and those who may not be able to afford private lessons.
It isn't about curriculum. Once again, it is the bottom line. I would challenge any board member who voted in favor of this change to pick up an instrument and play it well enough to perform in an ensemble. It takes years and practice. I hope other school districts continue to support music education and recognize its long term value.