Jim Darby, Owner of Capitol Music in Montgomery AL, recently reached out to The Retailer and the MI retailing community at large, seeking to raise awareness about legislative action in Alabama that has the potential to put school music programs in considerable danger. According to Darby, due to the downturn in the economy, tax revenues are not adequate to finance the state’s General Fund completely. Due, in part, to a gubernatorial pledge not to raise taxes, what is being considered is to shift earmarked money from the Alabama Education Fund into the General Fund. The budget shortfall and possible need for education funds to be diverted poses a very real threat to music programs in the Alabama public schools.
In response to this situation, Darby has been circulating a letter, which The Retailer is publishing in edited form below:

As an abused child who grew up in a poor family, I literally had my life turned around by music. It later gave me a profession and helped me find my place in this old world. I am thankful to have been successful and fortunate enough to be able to reciprocate with a lot of students. If a youngster has a burning desire to play a musical instrument and the parents can’t afford it, or their credit is not worth a rip, the student still gets a musical instrument from my store, Capitol Music. After being in business for more than 56 years, well over $1 million worth of instruments have gone out through special arrangements to worthy and deserving students whose parents could not outright pay for them.
All the way back to Socrates and the ancient Greek scholars, man has never devised a better learning tool than music. Music should be looked upon as a primary tool that makes kids smarter and enriches their lives. Through music, we find happiness, thus improving our lives. The reward of learning music goes with us throughout life, even into old age, much more so than does any other single subject in school.
Music is great therapy and, many times, it may be the best and closest friend you have. Through music, we develop self-discipline; coordination of mind, nerves and muscles; teamwork; leadership; self confidence; self worth; mechanical skills; patience; self expression; creativity; and the ability to analyze and solve problems. All of this enhances brain activity and leads to superior memory. Music is spelled “F-U-N” and, much more than does any other single subject in school, it highly motivates students to stay in school. Once the student can hear the music in his or her head and then execute it on his or her instrument, developing his or her own style (not copying someone else), that is the type of imaginative and creative person you like to hire. You don’t have to tell them everything to do. They are smarter!
The University of California at Irvine, along with some other major universities, has done a number of studies that have demonstrated that students who can’t pass math, science, etc. can improve through music studies. Once they get the music experience under their belt, their minds develop, making them smarter and giving them the ability to handle subjects that they could not previously pass.
With the looming school budget cuts and other restraints, we must not lose sight of what we should consider a most valuable part of our educational system. Band directors, orchestra directors, choral and other music teachers should be the last ones on the chopping block, not the first! These invaluable educators develop a very close rapport with their students, and are sometimes the only positive guiding force they have in their lives. In all of life, we have to have balance. If you take music out of the schools, you will be taking a whole lot more than just music: You will be taking a whole lot of students.
We must save, at all costs, this vital part of a well-rounded education: music.

Jim Darby


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