I think it important to address a question that has not been asked, and that is our position on the current situation with the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA).
First, a little background. The MSBOA has been around for more that 75 years, with a goal of assisting public and private schools develop instrumental music instruction, and providing various festivals to assist individual students, small ensembles and large ensembles in achieving excellence. For a long time, the MSBOA has been highly regarded nationally as one of the best organizations of its kind, and music students in the state of Michigan often have an advantage over other students in terms of the quality of music education and experience they receive.
HSMA was the first home school music group admitted to the MSBOA. Membership in this organization was a goal we had, hoping to attain that by our tenth anniversary. We achieved that goal in eight years. Since then, several other home school music groups have joined the MSBOA.
While there are individual directors here or there who have an issue with what we do, the MSBOA as an organization has been nothing but supportive. But the nature of what we do and how we do it causes some issues. Many of these can be readily addressed.
In order for a home school music group to participate in the MSBOA, they must meet certain criteria:
- They must have a state-certified teacher. Apparently, this has been a rule for years, but it is not made clear on any of the membership information I have seen. When we joined, we were never asked about that. For reasons completely unrelated to home schooling, the MSBOA ran a check of all member directors through the Department of Education database. ANY director who was not certified was denied membership this year. The only directors in HSMA that hold current state teaching certificates are Mr. O'Donnell and Mr. Benson. As you know, Mr. O'Donnell teaches our beginning band students. Mr. Benson is sacrificially stepping up to make sure that HSMA is able to meet this requirement for MSBOA membership. However, both his and Mr. O'Donnell's certificates lapse at the end of this year, so we are working on options for next year.
- The performing ensemble must receive full academic credit. Our ensembles meet that requirement. In our case, we do issue grades for students whose parents have requested it. Some home school organizations issue grades regardless of whether they have been requested to or not.
- The class must be part of the curricular day. In public schools, this means as part of the regular school day. As we all know, the "curricular day" for home educated students is a little less clearly defined. We do not expect problems with that.
Briefly, here are some of the other issues not related directly to MSBOA Membership:
- Because of their enrollment, all MSBOA-member home school music groups are classified as Class D. Generally, a Class D school will have smaller ensembles than other classifications. Some of our larger home school music programs (not us, but West Michigan and Oakland, for example) may show up with an 80-piece band. Other Class D schools with, say, 30-member ensembles do not want to be scheduled near the larger home school ensembles. More on that later.
- Class D ensembles also generally perform easier music. There are a variety of reasons for that, one of which is instrumentation issues. Home school ensembles have a tendency to play more difficult music than many other Class D schools. For that reason, other Class D schools do not want to be scheduled next to - "compared" - to home school ensembles.
- There is a perception that home school ensembles have an unfair advantage over their public school counterparts. We all know that this is patently not true. However, the perception remains.
Now, back to the "more on that." Festivals in the MSBOA are designed to be non-competitive. That is, rather than comparing ensembles with each other, ensembles are compared to a standard by the judges. However, festival results have over time become an important part of how a director is or isn't doing his job. They are concerned that when Sr. Orchestra plays Class A music among other Class D ensembles, that the judges will compare them to Sr. Orchestra. That's is not what is supposed to happen, but that is the fear that many of them have. "I'm a Class D orchestra with limited resources and play Class D music pretty well, but really can't go above that. I'm stuck in a schedule following a Class D ensemble that is performing - well - Class A music. No matter how well we do, we're going to get a II or a III for sure, and my principal or superintendent will be displeased that we got a II - again - and my job may be in jeopardy."
To correct for this, HSMA has offered - and for the 2012 Festivals actually registered - at classes higher than Class D. In the festival schedule, this will put our ensembles with Class B (Jr. Orchestra) or Class A (Sr. Orchestra) ensembles. Although we are almost certainly smaller than these other ensembles, that is the level of music we will be performing.
- We support the MSBOA. The leadership is in a difficult position, and have been nothing but supportive.
- This current situation is not an anti-home school vendetta. As a matter of fact, it was occasioned by an issue with a public school.
- HSMA strongly discourages families from talking about this on social media or contacting the MSBOA. The more families that do discuss it on social media or protest to the MSBOA, the harder it is on us to work things through. As a matter of fact, HSMA has been in the forefront of encouraging other home school music groups to ask their members to refrain from these counter-productive actions.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your Parent Rep (Band: Marilyn Frazee, Choir: Heather Miller, Strings: Scott Smith) and they will be happy to discuss it with you.