View from the fray

Raise my taxes, please, episode VII.5

Here’s me, the sweating sardine crammed between an adolescent in a backwards ball cap and a perfumed mom while the guy’s back in front of me is skootched too far over the seat so there’s no place for my knees and the guy behind me doesn’t know what to do with his legs either and that must be why they’re rammed into my back.

I offer you the previous run-on sentence as a tribute to the narrow bleachers at Reed High School. I am not complaining. I feel lucky to have a seat. Dozens of parents or so stand during the concert. They lean against the wall, against doors, against one another while 200 sixth-graders armed with trumpets and clarinets play such all-time favorites as No. 18 Au Claire de la Lune and No. 47 Mexican Jumping Bean. Another 200 or so teens from Mendive Middle School and Reed High play more advanced music (Taiko! Sedona!) with a passion that moves me, figuratively speaking. The concert conveys a sense of what the future holds for the sixth-graders who stick with the program and for the parents who pay rent on those saxophones and listen to excruciating hours of practice.

Yes, I am uncomfortable here in the bleachers. But it’s OK, really. Music programs in the schools are valuable to me and to my seventh-grade flautist, my eighth-grade violinist and my 10th-grade clarinetist. Musical abilities arguably stay with an individual longer than the ability to solve a quadratic equation or parse a verb or blitz the quarterback.

I grip my thigh to keep it out of the back in front of me.

Dr. Wes McKenzie, head of Reed High’s music program, is talking now, sort of. His wireless mic is being temperamental, but the good Doc’s not complaining. We like broken mics. We don’t mind that this school—even after the building of two new high schools—is still too darn small for the number of students it’s supposed to serve.

Just let the schools keep music.

“If you … music is import … then tell … legislator … on the chopping … and we want … keep what we have,” McKenzie says.

I don’t want to think about what might have to be cut if the Nevada Legislature doesn’t figure out how to pay for Nevada’s already low-budget public schools. Music could go. Athletic programs. Buses. Sex ed. Low-budget alternative high schools. Drama. Art. Take your pick. You can’t cut stuff for gifted and talented kids in Washoe County, like the Talent Academy. It’s already gone.

Here’s a suggestion: How about offering public education to kids only every other year? You could send your kids to school for either the odd grades—first, third, fifth, etc.—or the even grades—second, fourth, sixth. The rest of the time you could leave the munchkins at home with TV, some corn chips and a stack of video games. Wheel of Fortune is educational.

Yeah, think of all the money we’d save. I get so excited about the possibilities that I accidentally jut my shin into the back in front of me.

The man turns his head halfway around and gives me a frustrated sideways look.

He does not complain.