June 16, 2001

Return sought of music at schools EDUCATION; Officials focus on
grants and donations for Yucaipa and Calimesa elementary schools.

Youngsters in Yucaipa and Calimesa’s elementary schools will toot their own horns again when the new school year begins.

The Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District plans to revive its elementary music program in the 2001-02 school year after funding cuts whittled away at the program for nearly a decade, according to spokeswoman Karen Poppen.

“We haven’t had a full-time music teacher for 10 years” at the elementary level, Poppen said. “For a few years, our middle school band director came around (to the elementary schools) one day out of six. Last year, there was an afterschool program. This year, nothing.

“Our school board, our administrators, our parents and our students and staff really have been looking for a way . . . to get that going again.”

The district is seeking $3,000 in community donations to match a grant it plans to apply for from the Mockingbird Foundation, to help pay for instruments, Poppen said. The nonprofit foundation was formed in 1997 by fans of the rock group Phish to support music education.

Musical instruments in good condition also will be accepted by the district.

Dennis Mussen, who teaches band at Yucaipa Junior High School, will start offering beginning music lessons at the district’s six elementary schools on a regular basis. Officials still are working on a schedule of band classes, Poppen said.

Parent Michael Case was happy to learn the district will revive the program. His three older children had taken music at the elementary through high school levels. He said he and his wife fretted a bit over whether his two youngest, one entering third grade and the other kindergarten, would get the same instruction.

“Music education, it stimulates the mind and makes other learning better,” Case said. “It improves the capacity to learn. Schools that cut out the music program, the students suffer.”

Mussen echoed Case’s sentiments, adding that teaching music to elementary school pupils also helps music programs at the junior high and high school levels by bringing more experienced musicians into bands.

In addition to giving Case’s children a more balanced education, the music program will save the family and others from sending their children to private lessons.

“We were gonna do it somehow or another,” Case said. “We were going to make sure they got some music education . . . (but) it’s easier if they have it in the schools, and it benefits a lot of the kids that don’t have the resources even more.”


Donations of musical instruments or money for the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District elementary school music program should be forwarded to Paul Jessup, associate superintendent of business services, 12797 Third St., Yucaipa, CA 92399.

PHOTO; Caption: PETER PHUN; THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE; Band director Dennis Mussen directs his advanced band class at Yucaipa Junior High School. He will start offering beginning music lessons at the district’s six elementary schools on a regular basis.

-Karin Marriot