A new hour-long documentary looks at how music can help students in school and throughout their lives. "Carry the Tune" by Paul Trapkus, the orchestra director at Silver Creek High School in Longmont, is its creator and a first-time filmmaker.
As schools focus resources on testing, Trapkus has witnessed students wrestling with how much time to devote to science, technology, engineering, and math. The other part of the equation for students is how much to devote to their music and arts studies.
"It's not always a priority to look at what student's real interest are," Trapkus says. "A lot of the times it's more about what's going to make you the most money or... preparing you for something that's financially successful."
He enlisted Silver Creek High School senior Elizabeth Potter, who plays the violin, and recent Silver Creek graduate, Kevin DuVal ,to help with the film. Together, they interviewed students and music teachers at the high-school and university levels.
They also spoke with people researching music education trends across the country and those pursuing music-making into adulthood.
Trapkus and Potter sat down with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner to talk about working on the film and its message.
On advocating music education:
Trapkus: "It's not that we want students to ignore the whole idea of [college and career preparation]. Of course you have to think about making an income and choosing a path that's going to be financially suitable for you. But if that's your only concern, then it can overlook important aspects of leading a well-rounded life. ... I think [students] hear it from their parents, other teachers or other students -- or just society in general. There's definitely a pressure to go onto the path that's going to make you the most money."
On how music can create community:
Potter: "Pretty much every orchestra that I've been in...it feels like we all know each other really well and we all really enjoy making music together. And I think for a lot of people, it's really nice to have that outlet that isn't a class where we are looking at a textbook... or where we are pushing ourselves academically. It's nice to have an outlet where we are pushing ourselves artistically."
On the how the film changed his own thinking:
Trapkus: "There are definitely things I gained out of [making the movie]. I'm now more interested in the informal side of music-making. ... It's nice to just look at music as this different activity -- as this stress reliever."
"Carry the Tune" will be released on DVD and available as a digital download on March 28. There will also be at screening at the University Center for the Arts at Colorado State University in Fort Collins on April 19. It screened last month at the College Town Film Festival in Pennsylvania.