The story in Monday’s Journal-World about a young jazz musician at Kansas University is a reminder of how important arts and extracurricular programs can be for some public school students.
Earl Brooks is an outstanding student but, when he was growing up in Topeka, his family didn’t have money for private music lessons. Nonetheless, Earl played saxophone in his school band, practiced hard and got interested in jazz. At KU, he started looking at how jazz connects to literature, Black history and the civil rights movement.
He completed two undergraduate research studies focusing on the relationship between literature and jazz and was a KU nominee for the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships this year. He will graduate this spring with degrees in music and American studies and his future is bright. That high school band class was the beginning.
When funds are tight, it’s tempting for local school boards to cut back on arts and other curriculum “frills,” as well as extracurricular activities. Tough choices have to be made, but it’s pretty hard to cut back programs that can make such a difference in the lives of students like Earl.