First Chair

A Teacher’s Perspective on Arts Advocacy

As a music teacher with (almost) 25 years of experience and, for those of you who are involved studying and teaching music, it is apparent what an important role the arts, (specifically music) play in the development of children. Given my experiences as an instrumental music teacher and educational administrator it is unthinkable for me to consider preparing a child for life without a solid background in music. The tough economic times we currently face makes it obvious that we, as consumers of music need to remind others of this reality. The following is a collage of ‘reasons why’ it is important for music to be a fundamental part of every child’s learning. As there can be no music without learning, no education is complete without music.

If we believe schools exist to develop a child for a productive and meaningful life, then we must look at the contribution music makes in scope of the curriculum. The rational below is broken into four main areas of focus: intrinsic value of music, academic and peer associations, preparation of life, and building individual positive self-worth.

INTRINSIC VALUE

The process of making music is the reward. Unlike many things we do in school, music is music for its own sake. It offers a microcosm of life, the cliche we often hear and repeat such as ‘the journey, not the destination’; ‘the process not the product’ and ‘the purpose not the outcome’ all ring true when describe music’s intrinsic value to students.

Music offers an opportunity to experience the pleasure of self-expression at a new level. Unlike any paper and pencil standardized test, there are great opportunities to ‘create’ or add personal touches to a final product. Through the use of creativity and multiple outcomes music stretches ones understanding of self, which in turn helps us understand others.

ACADEMIC AND PEER ASSOCIATION

We become like the people with whom we associate. If our children are going to become academically strong, it would reason they should be spending time in the presence of other successful students. Numerous studies point to higher SAT test scores of music students. That is, students in the arts are scoring 20 to 40 points higher on SAT tests, and the longer a student participates in the school music program, the higher the SAT scores.

Music also develops the appetite for learning and creates habits of self-discipline and personal tenacity which carry over into every facet of school. Young musicians are skilled at concentration, alertness, memory and self-control. These attributes are basic for success in higher education, but more importantly, in succeeding at life.

PREPARATION FOR LIFE

We all want our children to experience a healthy, happy and prosperous life and to enjoy themselves in the process. Listed below are four mental tools which aid in this goal and are taught in and through the arts:

  • Creativity – The arts opens new horizons of the mind and supports wonderment, imagination, appreciation and sensitivity.
  • Communication – Music is a language beyond words. Music truly stirs the soul of man. No words or visual display can come close to the emotional impact of music.
  • Critical Assessment – Music is one of the key areas where an individual can develop a consistency between intellectual and emotional understanding. Music offers a chance to conceptualize, not just respond. In other words, we can create formulas instead of just solutions, and we can be pro-active rather than re-active.
  • Commitment – Simply, it is impossible to be ‘partially committed’ to music. While one may quit on a test, refuse to turn in an assignment, or just not be aware of what is going on in a lecture class, the participation level in a music class requires a focus of attention and commitment to detail unlike any other subject area.

BUILDING INDIVIDUAL POSITIVE SELF-WORTH

Music offers us a balance between what we take and what we give, and through giving (or expressing), our self-image rises because we have brought something unique to the world. We are unique, exclusive and important. We have value as a vital member of society and the awareness of this encourages us to be responsible in our actions as a contributing member of the community.

Finally, educational reform is a way of life. This is not an issue that will pass by and everyone will live happily ever after. All areas of study will continuously be challenged and reviewed. As teachers and students of music we will be called on to come forward and offer our expertise as to why music should be part of the school day. I encourage you to talk with your fellow musicians and teachers. The reality dictates we need to combine our efforts and energies for the benefit of all students who want to learn more about the most exciting language common to all mankind: MUSIC.