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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane school officials drop annual Band and Strings Spectacular concert at Arena

Flutists play during the annual Elementary Band and Strings Spectacular Concert at the Spokane Arena in 2008. (Rajah Bose / The Spokesman-Review)

The bands will play on, but not at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

Citing logistical and educational reasons, Spokane Public Schools is shelving its biggest musical event, the Band and Strings Spectacular.

The event is older than the arena. Each May, it draws almost 3,000 fifth- and sixth-grade musicians and twice as many attendees.

That was part of the problem.

The Band and Strings Spectacular didn’t get too big for its own good, but perhaps too cumbersome for the future of elementary school music education.

The event was costly and time-consuming and also came at a cost to individual musical instruction, according to district officials.

“It was becoming more difficult to put on this size of an event and have it be effective,” said Carol Pederson, the district’s coordinator for visual and performing arts. “We’ve been discussing other ways that we can share our music.”

The district will now focus on performances at individual schools, including move-up concerts as sixth-graders transition to middle school.

“This was not a decision that was made lightly,” Pederson said Tuesday.

“There are people who are understandably disappointed,” she said. “But I think that people who have attended over the years understand the reasoning behind it.

“This is something that we have moved through very thoughtfully.”

The issue might be revisited in the future.

Families got the news in a letter last week from the district, which spent several months re-evaluating the event following last year’s concert.

It read in part: “After much consideration, the decision was made to shift away from the Spokane Arena concert to focus on our annual community move-up events and school concerts.

“This opportunity will allow us to provide an experience that will motivate students to continue playing through middle school, high school and beyond,” the letter continued.

The change in middle school itself also is a factor in ending the Band and Strings Spectacular; within a few years, all district sixth-graders will attend middle school.

“Things are going to be shifting anyway,” Pederson said.

The Band and Strings event has been scrutinized for years, Pederson said. It was cumbersome to organize transport and safety for rehearsals and the event. And parking was problematic.

Also, focusing on the concert took time from individual instruction.

“The shift allows us to focus on neighborhood and school-based events,” said Brian Coddington, the district’s director of communications and public relations.

“It also allows teachers to better meet the needs of the students they are teaching,” Coddington said.