Do students remain until the Florida trip, and then quit?

With another Crookston High School music trip to Disney World in Florida in the rear-view mirror and CHS students registering for classes for the 2013-14, a trend has emerged that's of great concern to Music Department staff at the high school. While orchestra numbers appear to be holding somewhat steady, the number of students enrolled in band and choir is poised to "decline drastically," Superintendent Chris Bates told the Crookston School Board at a special meeting Tuesday morning at the high school, to the tune of approximately a 40 percent drop.

The emerging theory appears to be that a significant number of music students stay in the program long enough to go on the Florida trip – which currently takes place every four years, meaning music students take one trip during their high school years – and then they quit music.

Whether or not that theory has legs, Bates said someone needs to find out. That means consulting with music instructors Belinda Fjeld, Christopher Brandt and Kyle Entzel, he said, and it also means talking with the music students who are poised to leave the program.

"Is it because we travel every four years? Have we ever thought of (traveling) every second year with performances in Winnipeg or somewhere close?" Bates wondered. "I would like to talk to some of the kids to find out why they are dropping out. Why are the kids choosing not to continue in music? I don't know if there is an answer to this, but I'd like to find out."

The trio of music instructors and some senior music students, on the heels of this past April's trip to Florida, spoke very highly of this year's trip at the school board meeting last week. The instructors and students also encouraged board approval of the next trip in 2017 so that student fund-raising could commence in the fall. (Each student would be required to raise approximately $1,500 to $1,700.) Board members at that meeting and again at Tuesday's special meeting spoke highly of this spring's trip as well, and reported hearing nothing but positive comments about it from the community. They haven't officially approved the next trip in 2017, but it appears they're heading in that direction.

But will there be enough student musicians by then to take it?

"(The trip) is a carrot dangling out there to keep kids in the program," board chair Frank Fee said, adding that the only way anyone could get a real handle on how many music students are in music because they enjoy playing music is if no trip was offered at all.

Board member Tim Dufault wondered if music schedules are conflicting with students' class schedules. Bates said a specific effort is made when formulating the class schedule to keep classes like advanced-placement (AP) courses opposite of the band schedule.

Dufault said people who have walked away from their music interests in their youth often express regret later that they did so, and that is something that needs to be stressed to current music students looking to leave the program. "You talk to people who played piano and they say they wish they would have stuck with it," he said.

Bates said he's going to brainstorm with the music instructors on what to do to potentially stem the tide. "The instructors are talking about it; that is how they know the numbers are down for next year," he said. "I need to visit with them about what ideas they might have."