Don’t Take Away the Music (or Art)

Shakespeare wrote that music was the food of love  and that it could tame even the most savage of beast.  As a youngster Maya Angelo found music to be her refuge in a turbulent childhood. Jimi Hendrix said that if there would ever be change in the world it would be through music.   Our mothers sang us to sleep with sweet lullabies about mocking birds and wild horses. Before many of us could speak in complete sentences we sang about an itsy bitsy spider and a water spout. Music has defined generations and accompanied us through every milestone in life.  Many favorite memories of my school years are of the songs we sang and instruments we played in music class.

(My brief stint as a violin student – I don’t remember how to play – but I do remember that Mrs. Gilbert made it fun and I believe my exposure as a child has lead to my eclectic love of music as an adult.)

In a era when education is focused on passing the test at the end of the year, meeting goals and quotas – many schools have found non-core classes such as art, music and even physical education being cut from budgets and pulled from class offerings.  I did a little research on the benefits of music education in early childhood (and on thru high school) recently, and was not too surprised with what I found.
Did you know:
  • Music (and art) education helps kids learn flexibility, problem solving and communication skills?  It instills in them the ability to learn new skills, to be creative and innovative. (source)
  • In early childhood music instruction blows computer instruction out of the water when assessing abstract reasoning skills (important for success in math and science) – exposure to music instruction at an early age correlates to long-term enhancement of spatial temporal reasoning. (source)
  • Children who have studied music performance and appreciation score higher on SAT’s then those that haven’t.  One studied showed a 53 point jump on verbal and 39 points on math. (source)
  • The US Department of education recognizes the role music and art education plays in a child’s intellectual development.  (source)
  • Studies have shown that some schools who have cut arts education have seen a decrease in morale and attendance among students and an increase in disciplinary issues. (source)
We are very lucky that WildHair boy’s school has not suffered the fate of so many schools across the country.  In fact, I would venture to say that we have the best music and art teachers in the district.   WildHair boy has always loved music and art days at school, and was very excited last year when he joined the school choir.  During his year with the choir he learned great lessons in self-dicipline, commitment and the importance of teamwork (a choir can not just be one voice – instead many come together to make music).
My son has developed a love and appreciation for music ranging from blue-grass to classic rock to top 40 hits.  He is excited about it.   At 10, he is becoming a guitar and banjo player, with a solid understanding of music and elementary music therory. While he has taken lessons, he is also self-motivated in learning and mastering the skill.  He is confident in performing and has acquired skills that will serve him well in his life.
Even though WildHair boy is not in the choir this year many of his friends are – wanting to see them perform today WildHair baby and I met up with the group at a local mall for their annual holiday performance.  Mr. Chandler (the music teacher) runs a pretty tight ship.  He expects great things from his students – they know it and from what I saw at the performance today  they certainly do not disappoint.  The performance was fantastic – a mix of music and dance.  Mr. Chandler chose a variety of holiday songs representing various winter celebrations – exposing the children not only to differing music styles, but also opening their minds to other religious and cultural beliefs.
In a few years WildHair baby will attend the same elementary school.  I hope that he will have the opportunity to study art and music and benefit from the same quality education that opened so many doors for his brother.  Take a few minutes to  contact your local school board and let them know that you do not wish to see your kids miss out on the educational and social opportunities that an education with a solid foundations in the arts will provide them.
Amy turner - December 16, 2011 - 6:55 pm

I have to say I believe this is my favorite blog entry that you have written. I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. Our school and kids are so blessed to have such a fantastic music teacher. His enthusiasm shows through the kids.

Sharon Burns - December 18, 2011 - 1:08 pm

Thanks Jen for stating this truth so eloquently. As a teacher, I am often amazed at how well students express themselves in the arts, and how brilliantly the other desciplines benefit from these explorations in self-expression.

Bless Mrs. Gilberts and the others who dedicate themselves to the work of training all the little “Mississippi Hot Dog” virtuosi in the world and nurture the love of the arts no matter if they are performed in the nursery or on the concert stage.

I’m thrilled that Dan and Ryan have you as their mom!I’m forwarding your blog to Laura at the Fine Arts Council.

Laura - December 19, 2011 - 10:26 am

Brava! No matter how many times and no matter how many people spread the gospel of arts education, it gives me great joy when someone comes along and is able to bring it down to a personal level and illuminate the joys of art and music through anecdotal evidence. And truly, that is how arts education works best, one person sharing their art one child at a time – what a glorious thing it is. Happy Holidays WildHair Family! Laura at the Arts Council in Galax.

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