Bill and Kathy Cox: Applause for Mr. Knapp
“I now know that music is something that will always be in my life. It centers me, it makes me happy, it makes me whole.”
Our daughter Claire began her college application essay with this quote. It is no accident that her love of music did not come without the 14 years of music education that followed. As a family, we have been blessed with dedicated and gifted music teachers in Steamboat Springs, such as James Knapp.
In a community that focuses on sports involvement, we wish to acknowledge one teacher who has shaped the landscape of music education for our youth in Steamboat for about 11 years.
Mr. Knapp came to Steamboat from Leadville to teach the middle and high school band programs. At that time, these programs were in need of new leadership and creativity. Students were not flocking into band classes, pep band enthusiasm was lukewarm and those who loved music and their instruments did not have a viable outlet at school in which to participate.
Mr. Knapp elevated the participation of students into band, beginning in middle school, which lit the spark to continue music into high school. While we do not have the exact numbers of increasing activity into the band programs, it has been evident to all parents and friends of these students that music education in the schools has been brought to a higher level.
This spring, 17 students from the middle school were named to the Northwest Regional Honor Band; this is a record number of students given this recognition. Mr. Knapp deserves a great deal of credit for propelling these talented students in this endeavor.
The concerts given by the concert and jazz bands began to see increasing attendance. Last week, these bands performed to a nearly full auditorium. Emotions were evident as word spread Mr. Knapp’s leadership will change beginning in the 2016-17 school year.
Mr. Knapp will be teaching full time at the middle school. The high school concert and jazz band programs have been reduced “by half.” It is unclear why programs that have experienced increasing participation and enthusiasm for the past 10 years are being reduced.
Budget cuts are a reality for us all, but this reduction will have long-term effects. Students participating in middle school band will see reduced opportunity to continue their music interest in high school. As there are numerous other extracurricular options available to our youth, students will be forced to choose, “band or ?” With a reduced program, the participatory numbers will drop at the high school, and eventually, one could surmise the program severely endangered.
This would be a shame, as our musically-inclined youth deserve a strong music program to round out their education and enhance options for college. Is it not the responsibility of the school district to provide this foundation for all students who are capable and interested? We are saddened by this decision of the Steamboat Springs School District.
We want to take this opportunity to thank you, Mr. Knapp.
You have touched more student lives than you know. You have persisted in demonstrating to our youth that music is a passion that does not leave our soul. You have guided our youth through practices, concerts and national and international performances (London and California), leaving us with lasting memories.
Our daughter continues her passion allowed to blossom under Mr. Knapp’s leadership and tutelage. This is a gift not only to our daughter, but to our whole family. You will be missed at the high school, Mr. Knapp.
Bill and Kathy Cox
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