"And I Teach, Too"
As school administrators rev up their rhetoric in preparation for the state's annual spring offensive on the budget, Philip Campanella, District Chairperson of Music and Art for the Malverne Long Island School District, which comprises two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school, good naturedly chuckles that he has no real concern. He knows, of course, that getting adequate funding for the arts is, for many school districts, a constant battle, given that educators and parents alike still tend to be obsessed with the basics, which means relegating music and art to second-tier status. He also knows that despite success stories of how courses in the performing arts tend to improve student motivation, attendance, and retention, schools feel obliged, if not required, to concentrate on improving scores on standardized exams. At too many schools music and art are still viewed as add-ons, electives rarely integrated into the basic academic curriculum. So how come this veteran teacher and administrator isn't worried? "Should I be?" Campanella wonders playfully? The fact is that for the 14 years Campanella's been heading up arts and music in Malverne schools, the programs have not only been sustained, they have grown, even during periods of austerity budgets borne of Albany cutbacks and Long Island taxpayer revolts.
A reflective man with a ready sense of humor, Campanella modestly attributes the relatively good fortune of his district to a fine teaching staff, a relatively small student population (a total of 1,850), and a generally trouble-free middle class environment. With a 65--70 percent African American student population, Malverne was one of the first integrated school districts on Long Island, and a good number of its high school graduates go on to college and to art and music institutes. No doubt, however, NYSCAME (the New York State Council of Administrators of Music Education) and ASA (Arts Supervisors' Association) have seen something else in Philip Campanella: his unusual dedication and infectious enthusiasm. Where most administrators administer, Campanella also teaches-two classes a day of beginning band to grade 5, with an extra period on Mondays. He also plays in the band and in the pit orchestra for shows, and coaches the chorus-when he's not singing in one. His strong tenor has been ringing out for years in the Queens College Choral Society. A music major at Brooklyn College, with a minor in ed and an abiding interest in mathematics and Spanish, Campanella integrates all his loves, seeing connections. Composing and music theory, like patterning figures in perspective in art, is a matter of math, he notes. He is, needless to say, an intuitive believer in, as well as exemplar of, interdisciplinary study. And, oh, has he mentioned that he goes about his busy life "without a secretary"?
At the heart of the K--12 Malverne effort, Campanella says, is making music and art "visible." He puts on a lot of art shows and concerts and involves students in ways that ensure that they know that music and art do not end at the ringing of a classroom bell. A dedicated cadre of "core parents" makes calls so that concerts and shows are well attended and other parents feel connected to their schools. Thus, where other districts have cut courses in the arts Malverne has added new ones, both required and elective, resulting in a competitive, stable, and well-motivated faculty. Calligraphy, for example, has proved extremely popular, as have cartooning, photography and advanced classes in drawing and painting. As for the overall effect of music and art on the basics, studies do show, Campanella points out, that students who are engaged in the arts have a "keener sense of other areas," score higher in areas of creative thinking, and, perhaps are happier. "After all, when kids get together on social occasions, what do they talk about? The arts. As they say in geometry, Q.E. D."#