A few days ago I passed around a short note I found on facebook about the benefits of music education. It neglected to mention the volumes of research showing that in order for children to learn math they need music and exercise. This is true. Look it up. There are neuropsych reasons why listening to and making music enhances math and reading skills. I can say the same things about visual arts and the need for patterned light and novelty. Without the arts, kids are going to have more trouble in school, because music, PE and visual arts develop parts of the brain necessary to learn math and reading. Without proper brain development learning will not happen no matter how good the teacher is.
So what do schools with tight budgets want to cut? The arts. What do politicians tell schools to cut to balance the budget? Art and music. They have the whole learning thing backwards then blame teachers and parents because the students are having trouble.
I don’t mean to say that all our education problems are due to cutting visual arts, music and PE. It would really, really help children learn if they were healthy, but that is another whole topic.
Years ago I attended a music teacher’s conference. One speaker commented, “Music is one of the few things schools teach that students will use all their lives and never forget. How many students will be able to solve a quadratic equation twenty years after they get out of high school, some will, but I can promise you that every band student will be able to pick up their clarinet or horn and at least get a note out of it.”
I laughed over the above comment because it is so true. My older brother didn’t like piano lessons, but Mom insisted that we all learn to play through at least the first student book. One evening my brother brought a girlfriend by. She asked, “Who plays the piano?”
My brother answered, “Delinda.”
Being much wiser in the ways of women than my brother and being a very loving sister, I answered, “Oh really, we all do.”
My brother argued. His date wanted to hear him play. He protested. I found our old lesson book on top of the piano, opened it to the first page, set it on the music rack and told my brother to play. He sat down and cheerfully played the first two songs in our beginner’s book. His date was blown away. I’m certain he can still play those first two songs in that book. It is a skill he’s never forgotten and music is an important part of his life. Did I mention that any level of musical skill is a great way to impress a date? Been there done that.
Recently I attended a concert put on by a local band with fifty-four members. I immediately noticed that most of the band members were retirees. I learned that some had not played their instrument since high school. Yet here, forty years later they picked up their instruments, started practicing and were having the time of their life being back in band again. You might want to look up the relationships between making music and cognitive health in senior citizens. That music education was a real bargain for this country.
We do have better solutions to school budget problems than cutting valuable educational experiences and classes that enhance learning. I know the district superintendent thinks he is important. I don’t think he is as important as the music teacher. Cut the superintendent to half time not the music teacher. We really need to address the whole issue of funding education instead of casting blame or willy-nilly making cuts that impair the learning process.