By Noah Pagella
(pictured left; Coordinator of Music at Passaic County Community College, Samuel Ayala, plays the bass at the PCCC Gala in Wanaque. Sunday, November 26, 2017
KEVIN R. WEXLER/NORTHJERSEY.COM)
School music programs have been on a steady decline since 1997, according to the National Assessment of Educational Programs of Arts. The downfall, of not just music, but the arts as a whole in schools, has affected every level of education, and the reason for it is the lack of funding. From elementary schools all the way to the college level, every age group will feel the disintegration of the arts, and the creativity that comes with it. In spite of the downward trend of the arts programs across the nation, Passaic County Community College stands tall in the face of budget cuts.
PCCC’s musical arts programs were founded by Professor Samuel Ayala, and the program has been maintained for over twenty years. The long-lasting activities of the program have allowed it to develop its personnel and a special culture behind the program, and its students.
The school currently has two separate paths listed for students interested in majoring in music: Musical Studies (Liberal Arts Degree) and Music Technology (Applied Science Degree). Neither of these two degrees actually involve playing music, however, the fact that they stand in defiance of the normalcy of shutting down arts programs in favor of the budget, shows something. The main thing to note about the music program is not the major itself, but the people behind it.
Over the years, Professor Ayala has worked hard to maintain and grow music at PCCC and has done a fine job. As it stands, the school has no band, but that doesn’t mean music isn’t being made. There is life, because of the general love for music among a wide array of students. Due to the high levels of interest among these individuals, they have been able to meet each other and take off with their passion for forming their own bands.
Professor Ayala said in an interview regarding student bands, “Students come in the fall and easily connect with their peers of all ages…students have formed many kinds of bands.”
These student bands are encouraged and have been allowed to come and practice at the school with one another. Some of these students have even taken it a step farther than a band and formed their own ensembles.
Professor Ayala also stated that bands outside of PCCC used to come to the school to play and meet other people. Furthermore, these passionate musicians came in such large numbers that it got to the point so many bands would come that they almost had to shut down the whole operation.
With such a passionate community, along with hard-working teachers, these things should be of no surprise to anyone in the know. However, with budget cuts across the country impeding countless arts programs, no one knows what will be on the chopping block next. Thankfully for the PCCC community, their program seems like it will stay strong, and due to that the study, creation, and art of sound will stay alive for a while longer.