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Webster student plays instrument during class

On June 8, 2021, Tulsans will vote on the 2021 Bond for Tulsa Public Schools, a $414 million investment in Tulsa children, of which $9.6 million will support fine arts education and performance space upgrades at every school.

“It's crucial. Most of our arts programs are self-funded. They really rely on bond funding to get them the resources that they need to be able to provide the exceptional fine arts experiences our students deserve,” explained Sara Phoenix, Tulsa Public Schools Fine Arts Content Manager. “That can be anything from basic art supplies to band uniforms and instruments for orchestras. It covers everything from elementary art and music to high school theater, visual arts, and instrumental music. None of those programs would be able to function without the support of Tulsans through bond funding.”

A great way to have a strong band program at the high school level is to have students playing instruments in elementary and middle school. Jamie Dunigan, the music teacher at McClure Elementary, teaches her students how to read rhythm in kindergarten and how to read notes in fourth grade. When the students move up to Memorial Middle School, the music teacher there can tell which ones came from McClure.

“She always tells me: ‘I know when your students are here because they know how to read music,’ shared Jamie. “They know about note values even if they didn't do band.”

For Jamie, the bond package would allow her to get a wider variety of instruments for her elementary students to use, as well as making sure every student in band has an instrument that is in working condition. 

At Webster Middle and High School, the proposed 2021 bond package would help them build a new band classroom for the school’s student musicians. Currently, they are using a classroom that doesn’t meet the minimum space requirements and was not designed to be used for music.

“Our rehearsal space lacks any kind of acoustic treatment. In the same way that the echo of a small bathroom with tile walls makes every singer sound good, there is so much reflection and reverberation off of our walls that while the groups sound really loud, we aren’t actually hearing the true sound,” explained Webster band instructor Penny Davis. 

Penny said when the band moves to a performance space, there is a drastic change in sound quality, intonation, and balance.

“We are currently doing a lot of guesswork on how our groups actually sound,” she said.

The students and staff at Webster are excited for the way that a new band classroom will help improve their sound and performance.

The new room would allow students to have space designed specifically for music, with proper space, storage, and acoustics -- all of which are vital to growing a successful music program.

The 2021 Bond for Tulsa Public Schools would also fund improvements to school auditoriums at schools. These updates would begin with safety repairs and include upgrades to the stages, sound systems, and lighting. Some schools will also get brand new stage curtains and improved audience seating.

“We're looking at functionality for the students and for the program. Not just for what the audience sees when they walk in, but also what does the experience of the student on the stage [look like],” said Sara. “To feel that pride and that special sense of self whenever you're on a really amazing stage, our  every bit of that. It will end up serving any kid who is interested in the performing arts in Tulsa.”

Fine arts programs help students stay engaged in school and explore new opportunities. They can help with fine motor skills, math, literacy, and reasoning, as well as help students connect with others and find a place they belong.

“For every sporty athletic kid that's out there, there are two creative artsy kids, and they need just as much support and help from the community to connect with their school and their school community,” said Sara.

You can find more information and details on each proposition at www.tulsaschools.org/2021bond. The proposed bond package is designed to keep property taxes level.

The deadline to register to vote in the June 8 election is Friday, May 14, and the deadline to request an absentee ballot is 5pm on Tuesday, June 1. You can find notary information here and here.