Westminster prefers sports, not arts

The Westminster community takes pride in the alleged “well-roundedness” of the student body. This can be evidenced through the girls’ and boys’ cross country state championships, and the spectacular shows of Les Misérables put on by our very students. One would be hard pressed to find a school in Georgia who outshines Westminster in academics and athletics, but if one were to ask about our music programs, what would a student say? “MAC and WAC are cool” or “We do Messiah. Doesn’t the band play in that?” As a violist in the Westminster Chamber Orchestra, I will start by acknowledging my bias, but going into my fourth year on the Varsity Girls tennis team, I have experienced both “sides.” These “sides” I refer to are Westminster’s athletic and music programs, and one can suspect which side is better supported.

Society and the environment around us can greatly influence our perspective on a topic such as the stereotypical “nerdy” orchestra and band. On top of this pre-existing stereotype, Westminster has shown that athletic needs trump musical needs on campus. This favoritism is simply ingrained in American tradition and culture. It’s not a Thanksgiving tradition to watch a musical, it’s to watch the Cowboys. High school sports, especially football, are portrayed as the essence of student life, school pride, and community unity as seen through films such as Remember the Titans and shows like Friday Night Lights. It’s not uncommon to see a decent football turnout, but when was the last time a orchestra concert was packed? It’s true that musical concerts only occur every couple of months, while sports teams compete on a weekly basis. However, shouldn’t the rarity of these artistic performances drive more people to attend? It is not a big problem that most students prefer sports over the arts, and this isn’t exactly a hidden fact. It’s obvious that most 17 year old boys would rather spend their Friday nights being rowdy with friends at a football game than be in a coat and tie sitting quietly at an orchestra concert, but the problem lies in the fact that the school has the same opinions. We go to a school with seemingly unlimited resources and opportunities for students to explore their abilities beyond the confinements of the classroom, but would students and faculty all agree that Westminster dedicates equal attention and resources to our athletics as it does to our music program?

        Hope is not lost, however. President Keith Evans recently unveiled the drastic changes that the campus will soon undergo. Recognizing the need for a facility for the orchestra and band, Westminster plans to construct a performing arts building with a symphony hall and classrooms for musicians. While Westminster is home to 16 tennis courts, an Olympic-size swimming pool, indoor track, softball field, football field, and a baseball field, Westminster has not yet provided the orchestra and band with the a legitimate hall. In every orchestra rehearsal, the conductor reminds us to over-articulate eighth notes and exaggerate dynamics as we fight against McCain Chapel, a truly atrocious musical setting. However, if Westminster plans to build a symphony hall in the future, why is this still an issue? Westminster has finally called to attention the weakness of its performing arts facilities after almost 70 years, while the arts should in fact be one of the fundamental pillars of a leading institution and not the tail-end addition to an already polished masterpiece.

If we zoom out of the Westminster bubble and observe the world around us, we would find a very similar situation in the athletic and musical professional spheres. While the city of Atlanta tore down the “not that old” Georgia Dome and constructed the $1.6 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium,  tore down less than 20 year old Turner Field and constructed SunTrust Park, while the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians went on strike several years ago and numerous musicians left the ASO for other prominent symphonies such as the New York Philharmonic. The city’s failure to uphold the arts further stresses classical music’s underappreciation and its slow death. But what is so important about classical music anyway? So what if it has been placed on the backburner?

What would Game of Thrones be like without the epic, strings-powered theme at the opening credits? It would not be the same. Classical music is more prevalent in our lives than most of us realize. Many schools are cutting music programs to focus more on test preparation and athletics, Westminster should use its pedestal to show off its equal dedication to not only the best athletic and academic programs in the state but music program as well. As society shoves the classical music world into the back corner to make way for more “interesting,” wealth-making businesses such as the NFL, NBA, reality TV, and the countless blockbuster Marvel films, an institution so blessed as Westminster should finally share some of the adoring light glorifying our athletic program with our marginalized music program.