An Open Letter to the Somerset Community


I have been playing violin since 4th grade and plan on continuing to do so throughout high school.

My name is Isabella Rocha, and I am a sophomore at Somerset Berkley Regional High School. It has recently come to my attention that there are plans to cut back on the music program at the middle school. From my understanding, the middle school is getting a new schedule next year that will consist of extended academic periods and in order to fit in all academic classes, the middle school will be getting rid of studies, and extra music classes, such as band, orchestra, and chorus, will be moved to before school. I understand why this decision must be made. However, I do not think that this is the right decision for the students. Music classes are being cut back all across the country, and I’d hate for a school in Musictown to be one that needs to do so as well. Although music programs will still be offered, students wouldn’t be able to take part in them due to challenges, including waking up earlier or not being able to get a ride. Students already need to get up early for school and many have less sleep then they need. If students need to get up earlier in order to be a part of these programs, then they’re getting less sleep than they would if they just woke up to get to school at 8:30. This, in turn, will harm students’ academic performances. As stated in the article “Sleep Plays an Important Role in Academic Success” by Boys Town Pediatrics, students who sleep more have better GPAs and are able to pay more attention in class, and since these students who wish to be part of musical groups will be getting less sleep, they will not perform as well as other students on an academic level.

Studies continuously show that when students are given the chance to take part in music groups in school, they do better academically. When kids take part in music programs, they do better on standardized tests, such as the ACT, SATs, and MCAS. Studies have shown that music has the ability to activate the part of the brain that deals with paying attention and cognitive functions. According to the article “Every Brain Needs Music” published by the Portland Chamber Orchestra, learning an instrument leads to structural and functional changes in the brain. These changes can occur in the hippocampus and will improve students’ ability to learn and their memory. Music can help relieve stress and anxiety in students, as shown by a study done by the University of Maryland Medical Center. Students need music to help them do better academically and relieve stress in their lives.

I have been a music student almost my whole life. I started playing the piano when I was four years old, and I know how much playing an instrument can help students. Music is my way to deal with my emotions. Whenever I’m angry or upset, the piano is my place to go and it helps me a lot. Music is a way for kids to deal with their emotions in a beneficial way, and playing an instrument in school helps with that. Private lessons can be expensive, so not a lot of families can afford them. Having music programs like orchestra, band, and chorus in school can be an affordable way for students to play an instrument rather than having to pay for private lessons. If these programs are held before school, then that opportunity is being taken away from some students who only have the chance to play an instrument because it happens during school.

Music gives outsiders a place they belong. Kids involved in music programs are less likely to do drugs and do better socially. Music is a place where you don’t have to worry about anything else going on in your life. It gives students a much-needed break from the constant academics and enhances their performance in the core subjects. I understand that it can be costly to operate music programs and changes have to be made because of this new schedule format, but I do not think cutting back on these music programs is the right decision. Music changes lives and you have the ability to play an instrument almost your entire life. I would not be who I am without music, and part of who I am stems from the orchestra at the middle school. I looked forward to having orchestra during the school day because that was the time when I didn’t have to worry about anything else except for the notes on the sheet music in front of me. Kids need access to music programs, and not all the kids who want to play an instrument or sing will be able to if you have music become a before school activity.

I would like to ask you to reconsider the decision that has been made. Somerset cannot be Musictown if we restrict the music education to only those that are able to make it to school almost an hour earlier than it needs to be. Somerset cannot be Musictown if the music programs are one of the first things that’s cut back on when a new schedule is being put into place or when a budget is being evaluated. A school in Musictown cannot join the ever-growing list of schools in America that cuts back music programs. So on behalf of myself and every other student out there that plays a musical instrument or sings, please reevaluate this decision to move chorus, band, and orchestra to before school.