Band is Changing, School is Rearranging

If there is one certainty in life, it’s the certainty of change. A lot has changed at St. Robert School this year, like new teachers and a new principal. Some changes have included turning the old P.E.P system tracking middle school learner behaviors into a system of infractions tied to graded success indicators, and Principal Ward introduced the new Bobcat Bucks program, rewarding students for positive choices each trimester. Recently, the school community learned about another very big change that will go into effect next school year. To many, it seems like the biggest change yet: the band program is shifting. 

Once students at St. Robert reach middle school, they are fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in band, strings, or choir instead of a general music class. Many staff and parents believe that these activities are an important part of a good, well-rounded education. Therefore, band and choir teachers have been salaried employees paid by the school. However, starting next year, while the strings and choir teacher positions will continue to be part of the school budget,  the band will be taught by an independent contractor, like the way that piano lessons are offered at St. Robert. Mr. Zolinski, the current band teacher, decided not to take the contract position, so he will be leaving St. Robert after 7 years in the community. Currently, school concerts include strings, choir, and band students. With the restructuring of the band program, it remains unclear if the band instruments will still perform during these concerts, but nothing has been decided as a new band teacher has not yet been found to partner with the school as an independent contractor.  Some are also considering an option to play Orff instruments. Orff is a music education approach using movement, music, drama, or speech with instruments such as chime bars, glockenspiels, and xylophones, among others. These may be introduced to the lower grade level students, exposing them to instruments much earlier. Traditional bands will still be offered although the teacher is going to be a contracted position, thus not paid by the school. So the band will still be a class from middle schoolers, but the pay method is different. 

At first, some students feared the change meant that band would no longer be an option at St. Robert, and they were disappointed. They eventually learned that the change is intended to save the school money that can be used toward other important things. Carolina, a 7th grader, is one of Mr. Zolinski’s current band students. When she first heard that Mr. Zolinki would be leaving and the band program was changing, Carolina was very surprised and it came as a shock to her. 

She really loves playing the trombone and is now in her second year of band. Carolina states, “I enjoy playing an instrument and being with my friends at the same time.” Carolina also thinks it’s unique that St. Robert students have an opportunity to learn an instrument in school, be part of a band, and perform at concerts. Carolina is also going to miss the band with Mr. Zolinski because “he is a fun teacher.” Although there might be an opportunity to play Orff instruments, Carolina still doesn’t know if she will try that option or participate in choir. Even though she is not doing band next year, she is excited to try something new. 

Another 7th grader, Jacob, shared his opinion on the band program changing. He has appreciated being able to go out of his comfort zone and play percussion instruments because most students choose choir. When Ms. Ward announced the band program change, Jacob was also very surprised and a little sad as well. If this change means he no longer participates in band, he says he will miss practicing and performing. Jacob thinks band is fun because he has found learning an instrument to be really interesting. Like Carolina, he also thinks it’s great that students have an opportunity to learn an instrument at St. Robert. Another reason Jacob has had a positive experience in band is because he likes Mr. Zolinki’s teaching methods: “he is chill and fun.” Finally, Jacob does not plan to continue percussion even outside of school, because Mr. Zolinki is leaving. Although he’s considering participating in the Orff instrument program next year. 

Although the band program will change and there may not be flutes, clarinets, or trombones – and the St. Robert community will miss Mr. Zolinki very much, options to continue band class are still part of the plans, which will help fill the gap left behind by the loss of Mr. Zolinski. The idea of something changing after it’s been a certain way for so long can initially be unwelcome and scary. Resistance to change is also common. However, sometimes change creates opportunities that turn out to be surprisingly positive. Orff instruments are a different method of music education for St. Robert students, and just another opportunity to contribute to the uniqueness of our school. 

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