Music is not schools priority

The experience of the Samiweng singers, a school-based choral group in Ilocos Norte, is said to be an exception to the sad plight of the country's music program.

Because choral singing has been a tradition at the Ilocos Norte National High School, choral conductor and music teacher Robery Caluya believes it should not be a surprise that the school would continue to produce a youth choir that can be at par with the country's best choir groups.

Caluya is responsible for bringing several awards to the school after his choir, the Samiweng singers, became champion twice in the National Music Competition for Young Artists in 1993 and 2002. The choir had since appeared in various music festivals around the country.

Caluya observes that most public schools do not consider their music programs as priorities compared to core subjects like English, Math and Science.

In 2000, the Department of Education designed a curriculum that would specialize on art subjects such as creative writing, dance, theatre and drama, media and visual arts and music focusing on voice, classical guitar, violin and piano.

The INNHS is one of the 17 pilot schools around the country that carries the special program for the arts.

Caluya said the program is commendable but it runs short on proper implementation.

"Most schools do not have music rooms and basic instruments like piano or organ. Teachers assigned to conduct music subjects could not sing or play any instrument," he said.

He noted that other school chorals do not last long because the groups are organized only to participate in the NAMCYA.

"After the competition, the choirs are dismantled. The INNHS choir is an exemption because it has become the school's tradition to organize choirs," he said.

Caluya noted that choir singing and other music-related groups such as marching band, drum and buggle or lyre corps, and rondalla are considered extra-curricular activities such that rehearsals are conducted outside of class hours.

However, beginning next year, the choir and rondalla would become a major subject where students would undergo classes in Beginning and Advanced Music Theory and Composition. Mid-year performances and recitals would become a basis in grading the students.

Caluya said the school's program for the arts has taken off well because of the support of the community and the leadership of the school head.

Former school principal Danny Daquioag had lobbied for additional support from Laoag Mayor Michael Fariñas who then allocated funds for culture and arts development.

Fariñas set up a special fund for the arts program and would provide cash, food and transportation allowances for the school choral in any competition or festival. (PIA Ilocos Norte)


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