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Musical persuasion: Sarah Saylor’s journey for weighted music classes

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Madison Aboud
The mind behind it all. Sarah Saylor laid the ground work for music classes to become weighted. (Courtesy of Sarah Saylor)

It began as just an idea.

Senior Sarah Saylor was the driving force in having music classes be weighted.

“I first went to Mr. Detwiler with my idea and created a slideshow presentation that I spent hours on researching and creating to try to voice my idea,” Saylor said. “It was then shown to Mr. Neely, who felt it was a good idea to present to the school board. Mr. Neely took care of sharing the information to the school board. It was then approved in October of 2022.”

Although the plan was approved in 2022, weighted music classes didn’t take effect until the 2023 – 2024 school year.

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Saylor started working on her project after seeing the way music classes not being weighted impacted her and other students’ class rank.

“I know for myself and many other students that are involved in music, choosing between other courses and music was difficult because it would hurt their ranking and could affect their college acceptance,” Saylor said. “Many high-achieving students that took multiple music classes weren’t ranked as well as they should have simply because they were dedicated to taking music classes. They weren’t given the credit for all of their years of hard work inside and outside the classroom.”

Although music classes will now be weighted, it doesn’t change the way any of the classes will be run.

“We are still going to do our thing. It is just the district recognizing the work that goes into it and rewarding the students for it,” band director Larry Detwiler said.

Over the course of the fight for weighted music classes, Saylor didn’t face many challenges.

“Though it was approved by the school board, it took a while to be enacted for the classes to have weight. Besides that, there were no issues,” Saylor said.

Saylor had a large amount of support throughout her attempts to have music classes count toward class rank.

“All the people I talked to and that approved my idea felt the same way and were in favor of doing this for Altoona’s music students,” Saylor said. “I hope more students will continue to take music and want to take multiple music classes now that they have weight and won’t adversely affect their ranking.”

Detwiler believes that music classes being weighed is a positive change for students.

“I think it’s great,” Detwiler said. “We’ve always said in all other disciplines, higher level classes, having weight, shows how important they are. In all the other disciplines, the higher level classes have a higher weight to it. Music should be the same way. We put in the same amount of time and effort as the other classes so it’s nice to see it recognized.”

Music classes will be weighted on a similar scale to academic classes. The top weighted classes are: AP music theory, advanced jazz, vocal ensemble and string ensemble.

“We look at the rigor that is required of the students in that class,” Superintendent Brad Hatch said. “When you look at the time, the dedication, the work level needed in the upper level music classes, it equated to an honors course in a designated area. It’s leveling the playing field.”

Saylor believes students learn more than just how to make music during music class.

“Students not only become stronger musicians but become better people through music,” Saylor said. “Personally, it has taught me the value of hard work, dedication, organization, responsibility, teamwork, and to be passionate about something I care about.”

Head principal Andrew Neely feels music classes are an important part of school spirit.

“They are one of the things that keep our heart beating,” Neely said. “They are at so many different events throughout the school year.”

Saylor learned a valuable lesson during her fight to have music classes weighted.

“If you are passionate about something, you should be willing to fight for it and know that if you have a strong reason and story to tell, you shouldn’t be afraid to say something, especially when it can help others,” Saylor said.

This story was originally published on Mountain Echo on May 15, 2024.