Oct. 25, 2016
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Do you really want these kids to not have an artistic education?
Courtesy Turquoise Trail Elementary charter school

School of Rock

How one local charter school takes art and music into its own hands

September 7, 2016, 12:00 am

One of the oldest tales of woe is found in public schools across the nation forced to cut arts and music programs from their curriculum in the face of budget shortfalls. The loss of art, music or drama—areas tragically deemed nonessential when compared to core classes such as math, English or science—makes it so much harder for kids to get out of bed in the morning and become active, excited participants in their own education. Le sigh. It is, frankly, an epidemic, but luckily there can be found certain school administrators who operate outside the government-subsidized necessities to mete out a well-rounded education to their student body.

Meet Ray Griffin, principal of Turquoise Trail Elementary charter school, a man who works hard to ensure his kids will have access to arts programs. In addition to his work as an educator, Griffin also performs the sax for various Santa Fe bands such as Pleasure Pilots or the Busy McCarroll Band and, along with a veritable who’s-who of Santa Fe musical elite, he has organized the Turquoise Trail Saving the Arts Music Festival for his school at The Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing Co.

In addition to educational staples, Turquoise Trail provides classes in music, drama, cooking, songwriting, choir and dance, and Griffin’s passion is nothing short of heroic. “We are recognizing very specifically that that public schools in New Mexico have really received less money,” Griffin laments. “We got less money this year and I can’t find one person who says next year is going to get better.” Schools, like businesses, can be astronomically expensive to operate, and Griffin estimates the loss of an educator every year for the last four years. Additional cuts are generally made to physical education programs.

“We’re barely keeping alive these wonderful programs in our schools, which is the idea behind the concert and the hope that we can make it an annual thing,” Griffin says. “Keeping these things going with talented artists … there’s a lot of that in Santa Fe, but everything costs money and you wonder—what can you do? Have the teacher teach for free?”

The show itself will feature performances from Joe West (a parent at the school), Round Mountain (which features Turquoise Trail music teacher Char Rothschild), Busy McCarroll (who teaches an afterschool songwriting class), Pleasure Pilots and others. All proceeds will directly fund arts programs, with 50 percent going into a dance program run by the National Dance Institute, and classes like drama, video club, guitar ensemble and others receiving the rest. All the bands have donated time and The Bridge has donated space. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to partner with concerned citizens, parents, kids, local business and local musicians to raise funds,” The Bridge’s J Tyler Cade tells SFR.

Even if your children aren’t enrolled at Turquoise Trail, there are certainly worse ways to spend an afternoon. And what’s that old saying about the triumph of evil? Something about people standing by doing nothing? Anyway, we are at a crossroads in this country wherein the sacrificing of arts and culture are beginning to foster a systematic devaluation of their artistic and intrinsic merit. “I see now, as a parent, how much that creativity affects my daughter,” Joe West tells SFR. “We’re blessed to have a great music teacher out there and I see my daughter’s growth and her self-esteem … it’s just doing my part.”

It is obviously alarming to think of schools devoted wholly to non-artistic subjects, and even if we set aside study after study touting their benefits, it will almost surely lead to higher dropout rates. Says Griffin, “Maybe you have a kid where they might not be good at reading, but they are good at reading music or maybe there’s a kid who’s not so good at writing, and they can write music. … If we could keep something like this concert happening every year, we could at least sustain a nice portfolio of programs.”

So help keep them interested. Really, you can think of the event like a show you’d have gone to anyway only you’re actually helping people. Win-win. Support the cause if you can.

Turquoise Trail Saving the Arts Music Festival
2 pm Saturday Sept. 10. $5-$20.
The Bridge @SF Brewing Co.,
37 Fire Place,


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