The day the music died at Northgate High, and at other MDUSD schools

Music boosters at Northgate High school are in shock about the news that the Mt. Diablo Unified School Board unanimously agreed to lay off 200 teachers, including the music director of their school’s highly acclaimed instrumental music program.

The music director had been on the list of teachers notified of layoffs in March and was among the 200 who were on the layoff list approved by Mt. Diablo Unified trustees at their meeting Tuesday night, parents say.

The instrumental music program at Northgate has been “recognized with numerous command performance awards, unanimous superior festival ratings, and first place awards at band, orchestra, chamber music, and jazz festivals / competitions,” according to a Northgate High website.

More recently the Northgate jazz band received the honor of being one of 12 bands selected, from out of hundreds, to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival’s Next Generation Festival in April. The band will also perform Monday evening at Yoshi’s in Oakland

A Northgate music booster I spoke to said the music director’s layoff is just one terrible blow among many to students, parents, and educators who value music education in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. The planned teacher layoffs in the district included 25 music teachers. 

The Mt. Diablo Music Education Foundation is working to keep fourth and fifth grade instrumental music in the schools. The reason music education is important in those early years is that kids gain experience, the Northgate music booster told me. She explained that kids can get hooked on performing music when they’re young; they want to stick with it into middle school and high school. If kids lose that chance for music lessons and ensemble experience in the early grades, there won’t be enough kids ready to fill band programs in high school. 

“For so many kids, music is a big part of who they are,” the booster says. “The bare bones academics isn’t enough. It doesn’t give them a form of expression.”

44 thoughts on “The day the music died at Northgate High, and at other MDUSD schools

  1. One must ask what consitutes the core of education. There are required courses and then there are electives, right?

    Music courses are nice to have… if the District can afford it. I'd rather have my kids know how to manages their money than to play an instrument.


  2. FYI music students score better in academic subjects such as math. Also music students learn teamwork, performance, responsibility and other important life skills. On the other hand, if we just teach the 3 R's then we'll graduate robots instead of well-rounded citizens.

    The Walnut Creek community can support our MDUSD schools, by donating to your local school PTA, donating to our education foundation, or donating to the music foundation at


  3. Anon 7:41

    Education starts in the home.

    Parents have the oblication to teach teamwork, performance, responsibility and other important life skills.


  4. Very sad. I graduated from Northgate decades ago and participated in the music program. It was good then too. It was an excellent part of my high school experience.

    Music is an important part of education. Concert pianists have among the most fully developed and utilized brains because of the demands of their music.

    I say cut the bureaucrats at the District Office – not the music programs in the schools!


  5. It may not be too late to get your talented student an audition at the San Francisco School of the Arts. (part of SFUSD.)

    Goodby MDUSD


  6. LSR,

    How does a parent with 1 child teach teamwork? How does a parent with no stage/audience teach performance?

    Yes, we do our best to teach responsibility. However children do better if they receive the message from their teachers as well as their parents, and they do! The Northgate music teacher who's being laid off has been absolutely wonderful about empowering the students with opportunities to demonstrate responsibility (student leadership, organizing events, remembering their instrument and music, etc). He gives them real world experience with these ethical concepts that we parents teach at home, and the result is beautiful music.

    They say “It takes a village to raise a child.” Our village is Walnut Creek…

    Anon 7:41


  7. This is a continuation of cuts. The district has already cut over $35million. Unfortunately the May revises will hit education even more.

    Jason Wheeler…
    Each board member receives a stipend of $9000. $9,000 * 5 = $45,000. Don't think that is going to double the teacher salary.

    The district office has been cut over 35%. MDUSD current ratio of administrators is almost half of what the state what recommends.

    Positions eliminated included:
    Associate Superintendent
    Director of Purchasing
    Internal Auditor
    Workers Comp manager
    Personnel coordinator
    Communications specialist
    Area Managers
    Director of M&O
    Assistant Director of M&O
    Adult Ed Administrator

    There is also the retirement of one Assistant Superintendent that will not be replaced.

    10:30 am
    The names start on page 7 of the link


  8. Speaking of “our village”, the City Council had a meeting with the WCSD board in April. They had a long discussion about budget cuts and priorities for WCSD schools, such as the $100,000 per year the City has been spending to maintain WCSD athletic fields.

    Does anyone remember the last time the City Council met with the MDUSD board? Especially when these important teachers and programs are being decimated, wouldn't it be great to have our city and our school district (MDUSD) conferring and working together?


  9. Anon 7:41

    The Village says they can't pay for music education.

    There's an inherit problem with this “Village” concept to raise a child. What you're saying is that your offspring is my responsibility. YOU had the kid so don't burden me with YOUR issue.


  10. Yes everyone received pink slips. Please also remember that by California Education Code Policy all pink slips must be issues by May 15. The revision to the state budget comes out on May 15. Many districts try to predict the future and send out more pink slips than they might need. Why? Because if the revision to the budget numbers hit education and the district did not send out pink slips, the certificated staff can not be lay off.

    I hope I explained that clearly.


  11. Some people need to get a grip on the definition of “core class”.

    Not every kid is going to be an accountant or an engineer. When we take away the “electives”, we cheat our future of craftsman, workmen, leaders, and most of the creative professions. If you think everything is wrapped up in the 3-Rs, you have no clue what it takes to be an architect or a mechanic or a physical therapist or an industrial relations consultant.

    LSR shouldn't sell his kids so short. Balancing a checkbook is easy – the MSUSD Board is apparently rife with bean counters, but, alas, no economists who can look past a balance sheet and income statement, and see how this move leaves the country unable to compete with the rest of the world.


  12. Other countries hold higher standards and produce engineers, doctors, and scientists. The US is generally not competitive in the job market because this culture is fixated on XBox, Playstations, Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, the next Apple gadget, Juicy Couture, music, dance, and choir.

    This government has low standards so you get HS graduates that can't even understand a credit card or mortage contract. We stoop the lowest denominator because it is politically correct to make them feel like they belong or have succeeded when they have not. I'd flunk every non-performer so they either figure out that a high tech job may not be in the future or use it for motivation to do better.

    You're not doing anyone any favors by accepting mediocrity – you're only perpetuating it.

    My kids go to a private school and have supplemental tutoring. I'd send them to a public school if we were allowed to have school vouchers. One is on track to be an engineer and the other an actuary.


  13. LSR,

    I'm amazed that anyone who lives in Walnut Creek can list Apple, music, dance and choir as evils. I can only hope you're alone in these benighted beliefs.

    I'm equally amazed that you don't realize that good public schools create a good economy. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute's new report finds “A key pillar of competitiveness is the quality of public education” – to produce educated workers, and to attract educated employees to live in our community. Without good public schools, you'll be living in a Rust Belt economy.

    I hope the rest of Walnut Creek realizes how important are public schools, and music. Without those Apple gadgets, our Bay Area economy and our Walnut Creek sales tax revenue would be even worse!


  14. Not all districts have abandoned their students…
    The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) has released this year’s list of Best Communities for Music Education in the U.S. and a familiar name surfaced – Acalanes High School.The survey recognizes a total of 174 school districts across 30 states for their commitment to providing music education for their students.


  15. I've heard that parents will take their kids out of Northgate and put them into schools that have quality music. Perhaps Las Lomas or Acalanes.


  16. Isn't this all absolutely pathetic? The state is broke. The parents have to step up to help pay. Put up or shut up…

    On another item, how do you double teachers salaries while “cutting the board in half”? It's stupid comments like this that riles up the public.


  17. I guess LSR doesn't teach her kids how to “manage money”. Perhaps she can't manage her money as well? Let's put that on the schools as well. What else do you NOT teach your kids? Another terrific role model parent in our fine Mt. D schools…


  18. Anon 8:44

    My portfolio says otherwise. Btw, Apple is one of my core holdings. While most were cowering in the dark during the market downturn I saw it as an opportunity to buy shares in other good companies: CAT, SLB, MHS, and CSCO. Bank of America (BAC) at $3 (now around $17) paid for kids tuition and my very red Mustang. I invest to make money… not to make myself feel good so it doesn't matter if profits come from a socially responsible company or from drilling for oil in your back yard. A $50 note looks the same as another $50 note.

    Music, choir, and dance are not evils but when the financials get tight, “the village” must cut the fluff… The Tribe has spoken.

    That's right. PARENTS must step up. I am not opposed to paying my fair share of taxes but I believe that if your kids participate in non-core activities that those costs are on you. Pay to play.

    I think alot of you underestimate my opinion. Then again, you're probably Democrats who are willing to prostitute your tenets and beliefs for the sake of tax revenue.


  19. hmmm i wonder how much of the budget is allocated to ESL? And how many ESL students are here legally? I did find a note in the school board minutes that $40k is budgeted to a Spanish translator for “interpreting services and document translation”. I'm sure that is one tiny component within the much larger ESL piece of the pie.

    Frustating to say the least when a phenomenal music program is in jeopardy.


  20. Why LSR, thank you for letting us know how smart you are to make money to buy that gas guzzling red mustang. And I'm hardly a Democrat as you are condescendingly stating. I'm just not a narrow minded far right-winger taking the opportunity to take a few swings at the schools. Good job from “the tribe”…, they must be so very proud…


  21. LSR,

    I am an very conservative “right winger” and I find your comments annoying in the extreme.

    Pride goeth before a fall. I'd brace yourself.


  22. I scanned through all these comments, and I didn't see one particular topic. That disturbs me.

    Do people think band, drama, art, sports (yes football too), debate team, computer club, and all those enriching experiences they remember from their own school years came for free.

    RAISE TAXES like adults, and stop your whining!


  23. I have an idea. Before we raise taxes on the 50% of Americans who actually pay them, why don't we stop printing materials (textbooks, ballots, library books, etc…) in any language other than English. Also, let's stop providing services of any kind to illegal aliens.

    After we make those changes we can talk about raising taxes.


  24. Does anyone know how the district concert at the Concord Sleep Train Pavilion went on Saturday? Were there lots of people there? Good support?


  25. Anon 1:32 -My 2011 Mustang is rated by the EPA for 31mpg on the highway. Maybe you ought to check your facts before relying on hearsay or public perception.

    Anon 3:10 -Your a “Conservative”? I suggest you review your core values because it seems you've been brainwashed by socialists.

    Yes I am proud… proud all the way to the bank.


  26. Obviously you don't drive a mustang with a V-8 engine, but a pussy version of that classic car.

    You're also a disgusting money grubbing pig who smears your wealth in the face of the poor. Oh how proud your “tribe” must be… LOL…


  27. LSR said “Your a “Conservative”?”.

    LSR, your grammar is incorrect. You should have used “you're”, which is a contraction of “you are”.

    My core values are just fine, thank you.

    I hope you are happy with your filthy lucre.


  28. Grammar on blogs like this doesn't mean anything. It's not a doctoral dissertation, only quick comments. LSR is a braggart and an idiot. His grammar is the least of anyone's concerns.


  29. It's funny how when one has nothing to say or add to a discussion, they attack the writer's grammar…, and on a blog. I agree that LSR is probably nothing more but an online troll trying to stir up negative emotions. I hope he's enjoying his Trix cereal this morning…


  30. Apparently Mr. Brown had his layoff notice rescinded. That's great news, but without 4th and 5th grade music, Foothill Middle School will dry up in 2 years, and then Northgate will follow shortly after that. How how do we fix that? Please keep in mind that this problem is district-wide, not just in Walnut Creek…


  31. Whew! I hope that is true. Mr. Brown is a great music teacher. My kids go to LL. I know Mr. Brown through the music community. It would be a terrible loss for Northgate. As stated above. An education with music greatly enhances a student's ability in other disciplines.


  32. Does your student play in the LL bands? I heard it was a top program a few years ago. I'm sure it still must be, being in the Acalanes district and all…


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