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Have you guys heard about this???? Just announced in the Detroit Public Schools

aniramex music teacher/musician

I'm doing a copy-paste of an email I got at work this week. Between the shock and absolute shock, what do you guys think??

Subject: Farewell to music at Cass Tech?

What is the Cass Tech Orchestra program? First of all, after a storied history of many decades, it no longer exists. The orchestra director, along with both choir directors, have been laid off (including the director of Cass Tech’s nationally famous Harp & Vocal Ensemble, bringing that 85 year old program to an end as well). Also laid off are ALL visual art teachers at Cass Tech (actually, ALL visual art teachers in Detroit Public Schools, 66 teachers in all, have received lay off notices). In all, between 60-80% of the Cass Tech teaching staff have received lay off notices, effective August 27. 33 of 81 music teachers in DPS have been laid off.
Also laid off are the band, orchestra and choir teachers from Renaissance High School and the Detroit School of the Arts (DSA), leaving no orchestra program at any Detroit high school!
Then, what WAS the Cass Tech orchestra program? The Cass Tech orchestra program WAS, every year, over 100 students learning great music, mastering challenging and difficult skills, learning self-discipline, gaining focus, gaining self esteem founded on real accomplishments, and undergoing the kind of personal transformation that exposure to great music can bring about. The top 50 or so students in the program make up one of the best orchestras in the State of Michigan, with about 30 or more student musicians each year participating in the Detroit Symphony Civic Youth Ensembles, the Sphinx programs, Interlochen and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camps, and other youth orchestras and summer music programs, and taking private lessons with members of the Detroit Symphony, the Michigan Opera Theater orchestra, and faculty from area univeristies.
For the last 15 years, the orchestra director has been Marc Haas. In that time, the orchestra has received First Division ratings at Band & Orchestra Festival 14 out of 15 years, and countless First Division ratings at Solo & Ensemble Festival. Cass Tech began sending groups to compete in the state-wide chamber music competition sponsored by the Michigan chapter of the American String Teachers Association (MASTA) 4 years ago, winning first place—state champions!—the very first time competing, and second place 2 years later—the only school in Michigan to place twice in the last four years, and the only school from the metro Detroit area to compete every year.
The Cass Tech orchestra program has given performances of the 2nd act of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker with Ballet Renaissance, a local professional dance company, and a complete performance of Carmen Jones, Oscar Hammerstein’s modern adaptation of Bizet’s opera Carmen, which preserves Bizet’s original music intact.
The Cass Tech orchestra program has developed and maintained close ties with many alumni, many of whom have made very significant financial contributions to the program, and in 2001 the orchestra presented a 4-hour memorial concert for two former directors, who had recently passed away: Michael Bistritzky and Joseph Kertez. This concert featured alumni soloists, and an orchestra of 70 alumni, ranging in age from the previous year’s graduates, back to alumni from ’48, together with 30 then current students. The alumni included the president of the Cleveland Institute of Music, the concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra, faculty from several universities and public school systems, and members of professional orchestras from around the country, including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Several alumni have presented master classes at Cass Tech, among them David Cerone, Ida Kavafian, Darwin Apple, Joseph Striplin, and Regina Carter. Other visiting artists, and string quartets, have likewise presented master classes and workshops each year, and several members of the Detroit Symphony regularly appear at Cass Tech to do sectionals and workshops, as do members of the faculties of the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Central Michigan, Wayne State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, and Oakland University.
In both incarnations of the DPS All-City Orchestra in the last 10 years, it was the director of the Cass Tech Orchestra, Marc Haas, who first proposed creating the ensemble, and helped make those performances a reality, first at Cass Tech under the baton of Thomas Wilkins, the resident conductor of the Detroit Symphony, and then a few years later at the National Convention of the American String Teachers Association, held that year in Detroit.
The Cass Tech orchestra program has graduates as music majors at EVERY major college in Michigan: the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Wayne State, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Oakland University, and, of course, Wayne State University. The Cass Tech orchestra program also sends a much larger number of students to colleges and universities in and out of Michigan who, although, not music majors, continue to play their instruments in college, often in campus orchestra programs for non-music majors.
The Cass Tech Orchestra has been led by many very fine musicians and educators, among them Michael Bistritzky, Joseph Kertez, Alan McNair, and Karl Glenn. It has produced members of every major orchestra in America, including several concertmasters and principal players, as well as soloists and university as well as public school faculty; the orchestra, along with the band and choir programs, has produced major jazz artists, including Donald Byrd, Ron Carter, Paul Chambers, Alice Coltrane, and Regina Carter (a former concertmaster of the Cass Tech Orchestra); and noted pop artists such as Diana Ross.
The Cass Tech orchestra program is not just the current and former students, but is also a very active parent support group that annually raises several thousand dollars to pay for orchestra activities and supplies, and most especially to pay scholarships for private music lessons for about 50 students each year.
The Cass Tech orchestra program is well equipped, with many instruments for the use of the students, many of them relatively new, acquired within the last 10 years, and including some very fine quality instruments that have been donated to the program by alumni, and other benefactors. The orchestra library at Cass Tech represents the accumulations of several decades, with over 2,000 titles, including orchestra music and scores, chamber music, solo pieces, etudes and method books, and scale studies. In addition, a few years ago, an alumnus donated an extensive CD reference library of over 4,000 CDs for the use of the students.
What has been proposed to replace these lost programs? The Detroit Public School Academic Plan, as proposed by Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, calls for ONE all-city choir, ONE all-city band, and ONE all-city orchestra for all high schools, in which students would be allowed to participate only as an extra-curricular activity (remember, music at Cass Tech was a curriculum, with music majors making up a sizable minority of all performing ensembles), and only if those students meet minimum grade point average requirements (not specified in the academic plan, but a minimum 3.5 requirement has been put out there—if implemented, this would rule out participation by 80% of this year’s orchestra, and my entire top string quartet!). According to this academic plan, DPS will no longer take responsibility for funding these programs: art and music will be paid for by “outside funding sources” if it can be found—no $$, no programs.
Please note that both state and federal curriculum guidelines, including mandates from No Child Left Behind, specify art and music as core curriculum subjects—NOT “extra-curricular” activities only to be offered to the good little children who have met artificially imposed requirements, and then, only if the money can be found—how hard are they going to look? Let us not forget, as well, those students for whom art or music IS the path to success in other academic areas, some of whom might not even BE in school without band, or orchestra, or art, or dance.
What should be done about this? If you, like many, think that most if not all of this is a VERY bad idea—the loss of near 100 year old programs at Cass Tech, to be replaced by extremely inadequate programs that will effectively deny the opportunity to participate in art and music to nearly all students, impoverishing the education and the opportunities afforded to Detroit students—then we all need to do something about this.
When layoffs of 38 art & music teachers were instigated in February of this year, a veritable storm of protest, both locally, and from across the country, convinced DPS administration to back off. When people in power want to do things that others think are very bad ideas, and no one, or only very few, raise any word of protest, they generally are able to get away with it. Faced with a gathering storm of protest, however, the powers that be will often back down. Everyone hates controversy. These kinds of moves, to dismantle significant—and eminently successful—parts of our educational system, are certainly controversial, to say the least, and we need to make sure that they become MORE controversial, not less so. Hopefully, our words and actions can bring cooler heads to prevail.
Write/call/e-mail Robert Bobb, Barbara Byrd-Bennet, Teresa Gueyser, Rachel Luna, the DPS Board of Education. But don’t stop there. Write to the city council, the mayor, state and federal representatives and senators, anyone who can bring influence to bear.
Keep in mind that Robert Bobb was appointed by Governor Jennifer Granholm, and is carrying out her mandates—and was recommended for the post by Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education to President Obama. So write to the governor, to Arne Duncan—and yes, to the President!
There are clearly many things wrong with public education in America, not just in Detroit. The successes at Cass Tech rest largely on the fact that we go far beyond what is required in the standard curriculum of a public school, challenging our students to accomplishments and standards of excellence that they never believed possible for themselves. We cannot, however, allow overzealous reformers, no matter what their intentions may be—and who may, moreover, have conflicted interests in these matters—to destroy what works while trying to fix what doesn’t, effectively throwing the baby out with the bathwater! Your voices DO count for something—make sure you are heard!
President Barak Obama:
Go to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/CONTACT/
US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: 202-401-3000
or write: Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20202
US Senators:
DC Address:

The Honorable Carl Levin
United States Senate
269 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2202
DC Phone:

DC Fax:

Email Address:

WWW Homepage:


No Known Twitter Account
District Offices:

124 West Allegan Street, Suite 1810
Lansing, MI 48933-1718

Voice: 517-377-1508
FAX: 517-377-1506

Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building, Suite 1860
477 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, MI 48226-2594

Voice: 313-226-6020
FAX: 313-226-6948
DC Address:

The Honorable Debbie Stabenow
United States Senate
133 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2203
DC Phone:

DC Fax:

Email Address:

WWW Homepage:


No Known Twitter Account
District Offices:

243 West Congress, Suite 550
Detroit, MI 48226

Voice: 313-961-4330
FAX: 313-961-7566
US Representatives:
DC Address:

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
United States House of Representatives
2426 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-2214
DC Phone:

DC Fax:

Email Address:

WWW Homepage:


No Known Twitter Account
District Offices:

2615 West Jefferson
Trenton, MI 48183

Voice: 734-675-4084
FAX: 734-675-4218

Federal Building, Room 669
231 West Lafayette
Detroit, MI 48226-2776

Voice: 313-961-5670
FAX: 313-226-2085
DC Address:

The Honorable Carolyn Kilpatrick
United States House of Representatives
2264 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-2213
DC Phone:

DC Fax:

Email Address:

WWW Homepage:


No Known Twitter Account
District Offices:

1274 Library, Suite 1-B
Detroit, MI 48226

Voice: 313-965-9004
FAX: 313-965-9006

10600 West Jefferson, Room 203
River Rouge, MI 48218

Voice: 313-297-6951
FAX: 313-297-6952
E-mail addresses for Detroit City Council:
Councilwoman Brenda Jones: bjones_mb@cncl.ci.detroit.mi.us
Councilman Andre Spivey: councilmemberspivey@detroitmi.gov
Councilman Kenneth Cockrel: cockrelk@kcockrel.ci.detroit.mi.us
Councilman James Tate: councilmembertate@detroitmi.gov
Councilman Kwame Kenyatta: k-kenyatta_mb@detroitmi.gov
Councilwoman JoAnn Watson: watsonj@detroitmi.gov
Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown: councilmemberbrown@detroitmi.gov
Councilman President Charles Pugh: councilpresidentpugh@detroitmi.gov
Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins: councilmemberjenkins@detroitmi.gov
State official call list:
To contact Governor Jennifer Granholm, go to the link below:
Click on “Contact the Governor,” above the Governor’s Message to Michigan at the top of the page. On the next page, go to Online Forms and Feedback and click on “Share Your Opinion” Fill out the online form and submit.
Or call:
517-335-7858 Constituent calls
517-241-1707 fax
Or write:
Governor Jennifer Granholm
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing MI 48909
Following is a list of Detroit area state senators and representatives:
Irma Clark-Coleman, Senator—Detroit
517-373-0990 or 866-747-7803
517-373-5338 fax
Hansen Clarke, Senator—Detroit
517-373-0990 or 877-252-7537
517-373-9320 fax
Tupac Hunter, Senator—Detroit
517-373-0994 or 866-262-7305
517-373-5981 fax
Buzz Thomas, Senator—Detroit
517-373-7918 or 866-348-6304
517-373-5227 fax
Martha Scott, Senator—Highland Park
517-373-7748 or 800-726-8878
517-373-1387 fax
George Cushingberry, Representative—Detroit
517-373-2276 or 888-347-8008
517-373-7186 fax
Fred Durhal, Representative—Detroit
517-373-0884 or 877-877-9007
517-373-7186 fax
Shanelle Jackson, Representative—Detroit
517-373-1705 or 888-474-2635
517-373-5968 fax
Bert Johnson, Representative—Highland Park
517-373-0144 or 888-338-7377
517-373-8929 fax
Gabe Leland, Representative—Detroit
517-373-6990 or 866-525-4223
517-373-5985 fax
Lamar Lemmons, Representative—Detroit
517-373-0106 or 877-526-2702
517-373-7271 fax
David Nathan, Representative—Detroit
517-373-3815 or 888-697-3711
517-373-5986 fax
Bettie Cook, Representative—Detroit
517-373-1776 or 877-272-6885
517-373-8502 fax
Rashida Tlaib, Representative—Detroit
517-373-0823 or 877-852-4212
517-373-5993 fax
Jimmy Womack, Representative—Detroit
517-373-6404 fax
Coleman Young II, Representative—Detroit
517-373-1008 or 877-968-6404
517-373-5995 fax
And of course, don’t forget:
Robert Bobb Emergency Financial Manager
313-870-3726 fax
As well as
Barbara Byrd-Bennett Chief Academic & Accountability Auditor
313-870-3489 fax
Chastity Pratt-Dawley Education Reporter/Free Press
313-222-5981 fax
Mark Hicks Education Reporter/Detroit News
33-550-2835 fax

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