Every year, following the concerts for schoolchildren by the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, some well meaning person writes a review of this fine event that is totally inaccurate. This year it is entitled "Children Get Taste of Classical Music" (Times, Feb. 25) and is written by Sid Weinstein. I can appreciate his enthusiasm over the concert. It was, as always, splendid. However, I must respond to the general tone of the letter in behalf of the fine music staff of the Long Beach Unified School District.
I am a volunteer in the music department. I play accompaniments for the chorus, glee club and orchestra programs which most of the schools have when they perform several times each year for their peers and for their parents. My daughter is a music teacher in Long Beach and is responsible for the vocal music program in seven schools. There are 12 vocal music teachers and eight orchestra teachers who also teach the children instrumental music individually in these 50 schools. I feel I am qualified to state that, contrary to the patronizing tone of the letter by Mr. Weinstein, in no way was this an "ushering into a strange, new, exciting world of classical music." Please note:
About three months before the concerts each year the dates are set up with the current symphony conductor, and the music staff headed by Robert Dill, music coordinator, begins preparing the students for the event. In this instance, JoAnn Falletta graciously made a video introducing the music with illustrations and program notes. This was shown in every classroom involved. Tapes were made of the musical selections for all of the schools. The musical instruments were studied with suggestions of how the composer used them to get the effect he wanted. The halls of the schools rang with "Ride of the Valkyries" and "Amadeus." Mozart, Beethoven and John Williams became familiar friends.
Mr. Weinstein was impressed with the discipline of the children in the auditorium. I suggest that this was not so much because of "awe of the building" as it was the product of careful graphing and scheduling of buses and auditorium seating.
I protest the statement that, "For too long our children have been deprived of an adequate music education." Also, "This new program is a wonderful beginning." As he has stated, many school districts in California are being deprived of a good music program, but this is not true of Long Beach. In spite of the financial pressures, your school board has held the line on support for the music program. It must be granted that one vocal music teacher should not be responsible for such a large number of schools, but there is great cooperation with classroom teachers and principals, and classical music is taught, and California state guidelines are followed. Other districts look with envy on the program and the district can well "point with pride" at an exemplary system.
Blame is not all due Mr. Weinstein for being unaware of the music program or of the other fine concerts being given in all of the schools throughout the year. The blame must be shared by the public relations department of the schools and, I'm sorry to say, by the local newspapers. Telephone calls were made to invite reporters to this wonderful event. The response was to the effect that it was not important; meaning, I suppose, that no football or basketball teams were involved. What does it take to be important about a full Terrace Theatre of children, parents and friends in Long Beach? Once again, only a negative letter got the publicity.