Rural populations are NOT declining in North America “across the board”. For example, they are declining somewhat in many rural areas that aren’t close to cities, but they are growing in many rural areas within a reasonable commuting distance to metropolitan areas. Rural population growth/decline is a complex issue. The following map details this trend in the United States county by county.
In places where rural populations are declining this trend, I am sure, is one of the major challenges facing rural music teachers. Not only are these teachers expected, despite a relatively small student population, to live up to suburban standards of balanced bands and choirs, but their jobs are threatened as the number of students in the school shrinks to the point of not justifying having a full-time music teacher. Two music teaching jobs in counties surrounding Northwest Missouri State University where I currently teach, for instance, were combined with jobs at neighboring schools this past year. In other words, we lost two music teaching positions. Of course, it was not just the number of students in the school that led to the consolidation, but also the number of students in the music program. So, we need to find ways to keep the students involved–to “fill the seats”. (This might mean changing what we offer, but that’s a topic for another post).
A detailed report on United States rural population trends can be found here:http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Population/
A thought-provoking episode of Land and Sea on the CBC details the challenges of population decline and issues surrounding the threat of school consolidations on Prince Edward Island:
A detailed report on Canada’s rural population trends can be found here:http://cansim2.statcan.ca/cgi-win/cnsmcgi.pgm?Lang=E&SP_Action=Result&SP_ID=77&SP_TYP=62&SP_Sort=-0&SP_Portal=2