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By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

Editor's Note | Jamie Stewart: Keeping the arts alive


Last updated 3/7/2020 at 7:02pm | View PDF

Another Colours Festival and come and gone, and it was a great time for those who appreciate the arts. There was something for such a wide variety of interests, be it music, painting, dance or theater.

It is so nice to see a small town come together to put this event on, especially when there are a lot of communities have seen their arts programs disappearing. Despite of there being plenty of studies saying the fine arts help students develop as successful students, gain self confidence and a good work ethic, the programs are either seeing their budgets cut drastically or eliminated altogether.

This is so sad.

The schools and communities at large put such an emphasis on sports programs that sometimes the arts programs get overlooked. Well, anyone who has ever met me knows I live for those Friday Night Lights moments every fall, delighting in the smell of the sod, mixed with the aroma of sweat and sometimes a little blood.

Football season is a special time of year and has done its fair share of making it possible for students to excel on the field, as well as off it. Sports teach the kids discipline, the value of hard work, the concept of working with each other to attain a goal, and giving them a confidence that seeps off the field into the classroom and their every day lives.

But, it seems that when it comes to the arts, the credit that is bestowed on sports does not lend itself in the same light.

The fine arts have helped so many kids, myself included, to express themselves, be it by creating a work of art, playing an instrument, acting in a play, or singing in a choir.

When I was in grade school, I started playing the cello. I loved the soulful, deep and rich tone of the instrument. I would get so happy when I nailed a piece of music, bringing that song to life. It also helped me in my regular class work, having to use muscle memory, memorize chords, read the music -- just a number of skills that made me a better and happier student.

Entering my junior year, the orchestra was dropped by our school due to budget constraints. It crushed me. They did allow me to go to class in the band room for one period a day and practice my cello, which sometimes seemed worse than if they would have just kicked me and my cello out the door. Every day that I spent practicing by myself was a reminder of the importance that they placed on the orchestra program.

Fortunately, I was good enough that the local community college invited me to perform with them in their performances, which kept me busy playing. But, for the majority that had the rug pulled out from under them, it was like a slap in the face. It essentially was the school telling you that your passion, your talent and ability were not valued enough to keep the arts alive.

I had hoped when we moved to Shafter High that they would have an orchestra program, but theirs had been eliminated as well, just leaving the band and choir programs intact.

I love the cities’ band programs, as they have excellent teachers, amazing musicians and great support from the community. I just wish that this support would have been enough to keep all of the arts alive. Maybe with the success Shafter has had, and the amazing talents of the Shafter Symphony that will be visiting the schools later this week, that the passion Shafter has for the arts will result in a rebirth of a complete fine arts program.

[BEGIN ITAL]Jamie Stewart is editor of The Shafter Press. Opinions expressed in this column are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the paper or its


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