Dear Governor Brownback,
This afternoon I saw a link on the Hays Post Facebook page featuring a picture of Craig Manteuffel, the Hays High School Band director. In the caption of the picture was an alarming statistic: “A study of budget cuts for the arts in Kansas finds more than 600 music positions in grades K-12 have been eliminated in Kansas the past five years.” Mr. Manteuffel called this statistic a “travesty.” I agree but find that to be a polite understatement. As a native Kansan, my life has been shaped by many outstanding, wonderful, and extremely dedicated music teachers – from Coronado Elementary (Ms. Anderson and Mrs. Westerman) to Salina South Middle School (Mr. Roegge) to Salina South High School (Mr. Fillmore) and Fort Hays State University (Dr. Jordan and Mr. Dawson).
I am currently working towards my doctorate in trumpet performance at the University of North Texas. My music education in Kansas thoroughly prepared me for doctoral studies at the nation’s largest music program. Not only am I a member of the top auditioned orchestra, the UNT Symphony Orchestra, I am also in the top auditioned wind ensemble, the UNT Wind Symphony. This is no small feat considering there are over 100 trumpeters on campus. After my degree is completed, I would love to return to Kansas with my wife to raise a family and establish my. If this trend continues there will be no reason for us to do so.
Without these Kansas music educators, my passion for making and (more importantly) sharing music would still be unrealized. It sickens and outrages me that young Kansans are being deprived of the opportunity to make, share, and experience music. Playing my trumpet has given me a voice, a medium of expression, and a sense of value that is simply unparalleled. How can we deny this to our youngest citizens who are yearning to express themselves? I understand there are many many factors at work here and I do not want to point fingers, lay blame or call names. As a future music teacher, I simply want to ask: What can I do to help?