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ARTS EDUCATION IN THE RECESSION Pt.2

RANDY: At 7:30 this morning we heard some good news from Springfield Ballet and Springfield Little Theatre about how their education programs are faring in the current recession: no tangible reductions in student enrollments, in part because both organizations have healthy scholarship and financial-aid mechanisms in place . Not only that, but as Little Theatre Education Director Lorianne Dunn says:LORIANNE: I think what’s unique about the non-profit arts organizations in Springfield is, we’re used to existing on a shoestring budget! We are always finding ways to be creative, and do a lot with a little. So, in these times, when other people may be really feeling that pinch… (chuckle) this is kind of status-quo for us!RANDY: Sandra Smith, Executive Director of Springfield Regional Arts Council, echoed those sentiments.SANDRA: Randy, I think in tough times like these, people turn to the arts and to the parks. They want feel-goody things, because the rest of life can be pretty scary! SO that’s what we’re here for. When times are bad, we just figure out how to handle it, and how to offer free things.RANDY: The Arts Council doesn’t offer long-form classes like the Ballet and Little Theatre; instead, they do short-duration workshops throughout the year. SANDRA: We have, usually, about 15 workshops, 15 to 20, like spring-summer, fall-winter. The range in price is anywhere from free, if we can get it out of one of our grants, to $35 to $50. And I’ve noticed, since the challenging economic times have hit us, that we’re getting fewer people signing up for our workshops.RANDY: So the Arts Council is consolidating several workshops into a “One-Shot Saturday”--and, for the first time, they’re offering scholarships donated by board members.SANDRA: In the winter workshops I’d say we gave out about eight scholarships. We never had scholarships before this--RANDY: Never had to.SANDRA: No, never had to, right.RANDY: And the Arts Council offerings remain quite affordable, says Education Director Stephanie Cramer.STEPHANIE: I realize that many people offer programs in other parts of the United States that are longer--for example, a week-long program where it’ll cost $600 or $700 to go to that program. And they have seen a great decline. But with us, we offer something that’s more on a weekly basis, and is much more affordable.RANDY: A group of individuals who strive to offer affordable arts education--yet still make a living doing it!--are the hard-working private music teachers in the area. Some 15 or 16 private teachers rent studio space at the venerable Hoover Music Company at Jefferson and Elm downtown. They’re there six days a week, charging about $19 per lesson, says store Manager Sherry Norton.SHERRY: And that’s for 30-minute lessons once a week; and it’s one-on-one.RANDY: She says overall business is holding steady, and may even be up somewhat.SHERRY:I think maybe music is something that people still feel like is an educational expense--definitely a necessary one.RANDY: As an example, band-instrument teacher Andrew Wang isn’t seeing any reduction in business due to the recession. In a typical year, a full load of students per week is--ANDREW WANG: 25.RANDY: Now, are you at that level right now?ANDREW WANG: Yes I am.RANDY: Are you having new students?ANDREW WANG: Yes, all the time. Parents who care about the education of their sons and daughters will continue lessons because they know, whatever the future brings, they want their children to be best prepared, and they realize that music is very important.RANDY: But not all the teachers at Hoover Music are maintaining their student loads. String teacher George Williams typically has 15 to 30 students per week. But right now?GEORGE: Actually, I have about half as many students as I had a year and a half ago. There’s always a turnover in students, but there are usually people beginning--and what’s not happening right now is, people are not starting (lessons), actually… a shortage of new students. I think in the last couple of months, three different people have quit because somebody in the family lost a job. Teaching is most of my income--I also play in orchestras. It’s very worrisome, and I don’t know how it’s going to impact me, actually.RANDY: Vic Davis, who has taught guitar at Hoover Music for 26 years, used to see 60 or more students a week--he’s down to about 50.VIC: Absolutely.RANDY: You’ve actually had people say, “We can’t afford it?”VIC: “Have to take a break because of financial difficulties;” either one or both parents being laid off from work.RANDY: How does losing students affect you?VIC: It means belt-tightening, definitely.RANDY: Meanwhile, Andrew Bishko, who teaches everything from piano to Native American flute, has found a way to keep students: good old-fashioned bartering!ANDREW BISHKO: Rick, my student here, he was going to drop out because of the economy. And we made a deal where--I’m building a house right now, and Rick turns out to be a certified plumber--he’s going to plumb our house!RICK: So I do plumbing for lessons.RANDY: Local music teachers--some getting by in a bad economy, others not hurt by the recession… yet.