School District of Philadelphia Trained Bassoonist

School District of Philadelphia Board of Education Action Meeting Testimony, April 21, 2022

by Barbara McDowell Dowdall

My name is Barbara McDowell Dowdall. I am a public school-trained bassoonist, child of a onetime Free Library of Philadelphia branch head (Falls of Schuylkill), and a member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS). 

Fifty years ago, a most fortunate generation in Philadelphia public schools was learning to sing, play, and listen to music: patriotic, religious, classical and Broadway. Every child was expected to purchase – metal or plastic – a melody flute. We all learned to read music, at least the treble clef. Every school, including elementary, had an orchestra and chorus. Every junior high and high school had both a fulltime vocal and fulltime instrumental teacher. Free lessons on free instruments, violin, clarinet and trumpet, were offered in 4th grade. Every school had candidates for All City Band, Orchestra and Chorus. Music is still a significant presence in our public schools: two CAPA’s, the Girard Academic Music Program, all-city choral and instrumental groups, and in schools where principals juggle resources. The musical guarantee for every child, however, has vanished. The current board could return us to these halcyon days rather than rely on charity and chance.

The relentless march to school library oblivion, combined with random, piecemeal proposals/grants/donations for classroom libraries should be replaced now with plan for presentation to Dr. Watlington, to model a restored school library system with Certified Teacher Librarians on award-winning Council Rock–for 219 schools instead of 3.