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A Program of Note

December 12, 1991

Thanks to The Times, reporter Bernice Hirabayashi and staff for the article about the Santa Monica High School symphony orchestra (Times, Nov. 21) and the important invitation it has received to represent the United States at the international music festival in Vienna.

This invitation is not a matter of luck or chance, but a result of years of consistently high achievement. It is the kind of success we are looking for from our schools. This event should be celebrated and promoted. I think your readers might like to know the factors that have led to this success.

The Santa Monica High School Music Department has been very fortunate to have had extraordinary teachers throughout its history. The director of orchestras, Jeff Edmons, and the director of bands, Terry Sakow, work extremely hard. They begin the school year two weeks early. They arrive early every weekday morning. They rarely leave before 6 p.m. They hold after-school rehearsals almost every day. They devote some lunch periods to music education clubs. They lead the marching band at Friday night football games. And of course, they are with the bands and orchestras at their performances, many of which are on weekends and out of town.

They receive no greater compensation than any other teacher. They love what they are doing, and their example of caring is transmitted to the students, who respond by redoubling their efforts. And do not think that achievement comes easily. The music students are not all privileged, affluent prodigies. They represent a cross section of the community, with varying abilities and scholastic interests. The music classes are not "academies" full of virtuosi, but assemblies of young men and women inspired toward a common goal.

There are other aspects of the music program that contribute to its excellence, but the last one I will mention is parent involvement. The parents appreciate the dedication of Mr. Edmons and Mr. Sakow, and also want their children to have these self-esteem-building experiences. A large number of them contribute time and money to ensure that the quality of the program does not suffer as school budgets are cut back.

Representatives of a distant country at the heart of the Western musical tradition appreciate the accomplishments of these students. I hope the local community can appreciate their achievement, and express it with some financial support, as well.

JEAN STEVENS

Santa Monica

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