Eric Bachrach: Save elementary school positions

Ariel Templeton, a music teacher for the Amherst elementary schools, teaches band at Wildwood Elementary School on Feb. 14.

Ariel Templeton, a music teacher for the Amherst elementary schools, teaches band at Wildwood Elementary School on Feb. 14. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Published: 02-25-2024 12:09 AM

I read with great concern in the Feb. 15 edition of the Gazette of the possible elimination of both an elementary school music position as well as a special education position in the Amherst public school budget. I’m urging to eliminate neither position.

I was the founder and director of the Community Music School of Springfield and was lucky to see the transformative nature of making music across the 27 years I was there. 

For preschool age children to seniors in high school to senior citizens, people of all ages, all abilities, and all walks of life, music changed lives and humanized their relationships with one another. It also allowed them to step into a world that obscures the multitude of challenges of any age. Our public school children need spaces in which to engage and embrace beauty in a way that making music and the arts can provide.

My two children, now in their 40s, grew up in Amherst and benefited enormously from Amherst public schools’ robust arts curriculum. It expanded their world view well beyond what they experienced at home. We moved to Amherst from New York City largely encouraged by a community that embraced education in a rich, comprehensive, and multi-dimensional way. Our children are who they are in part due to what this community has always conveyed as valuable and important.

I had the privilege of being the director of a school that was committed to accessible and affordable music education. But truly, the most accessible and most affordable music education —  the most democratic access to music —  is made possible through our public schools.

Personally, I will be forever grateful for being given for the first time a public school violin in the seventh grade in a Bronx junior high school. Since then, I’ve experienced life so much through the lens of the world of music. Children today have been through the isolationism of COVID, are living in a world that is moving inexorably toward greater alienation through computerization, and are living with the anxiety of the climate crisis. Let’s support our children’s development by not eliminating any of our teachers.

Eric Bachrach

Founder and executive director emeritus, Community Music School of Springfield.