Influence of Music Education
What is the value of music education? Recently, a demand for greater concentration has been placed on the traditional basics: English, math, science and history. In addition, there is an increased focus on computer competency and the need for foreign language. Add to the mix health education, family life education, industrial arts education, home economics, physical education and business education, and one wonders where music education fits in.
Benefits of Participation in Music Arts
The National Commission on Excellence in Education (NCEE) recommends that middle and high schools provide vigorous programs in the fine and performing arts. According to the NCEE, there are many reasons why music should be part of primary and secondary education. The most notable are:
- Music contributes to the school and community environment (quality of life).
- Music makes the day more alive and interesting, which in turn leads to more learning.
- Music combines behaviors to promote a higher order of thinking skills.
- It provides a way to imagine and create and contributes to self-expression and creativity.
- Performing, consuming and composing are satisfying and rewarding activities.
- Music education provides for perceptual motor development.
- Music encourages teamwork and cohesiveness.
- It fosters creativity and individuality.
- Music education adds to the self-worth of participants.
- Music education fosters discipline and commitment.
Those who are directly involved with music education know the benefits firsthand. "Music educators feel and have observed that student involvement in school music has a positive impact on other areas of their lives," says Tony Mickela, band director and member of the National Music Booster Club. "These educators will tell you that musical involvement improves a student's self-discipline, dexterity, coordination, self-esteem, thinking skills, listening skills, creative abilities and personal expression. Most music educators are not aware of specific research that supports these feelings and observations, which could often offer them a way to get involvement from students and their parents."
In addition, the benefits of music education reach into academics as well. "Music lessons appear to strengthen the links between brain neurons and build new spatial reasoning," says psychologist Frances Rauscher at the University of California-Irvine. "Music instruction can improve the spatial intelligence for long periods of time – perhaps permanently. If parents can't afford lessons, they should at least buy a musical keyboard or sing regularly with their kids and involve them in musical activities."
Where Does It Fit?
Ernest Boyer's High School: A Report on Secondary Education in America lists the arts as second in curriculum priority after language in the proposed core of common learning. In addition, Boyer states that music is ranked first among subjects most liked by students and receives high rankings in the areas of importance and difficulty.
"My favorite class is definitely band," says Cody David, a seventh grade student in Asheville, N.C. "I started playing the saxophone two years ago and love it. I'd rather not have gym or even study hall than not have band. It feels good to learn a new song and be able to play it for my mom or dad."
Parents must get involved to make these meaningful memories part of your child's life. Join your local music support group, find out about your local arts council and attend your local school board meetings to make sure the fine arts do not get shorted by budget cuts. Get involved! Sit in on your child's music lesson and learn what you can do to help.
"I agree that these benefits are more than positive," Mickela says. "As directors we need to be more vocal about the benefits of participation in music and share this kind of information with school boards, principals, parents and students. Combining this kind of information with the scientific data available concerning the positive impact of music is a powerful argument that needs to be shared with the public."
What Does the Future Hold?
No one is saying that if your son or daughter partakes in musical education that he or she will be the next pop super star, but it can have an influence on where your child goes after high school. "We look for students who have taken part in orchestra, symphonic band, chorus and drama," says Fred Hargadon, a former dean of admissions for Stanford University. "It shows a level of energy and an ability to organize time that we are after here. It shows that they can carry a full academic load and learn something else. It means that these particular students already know how to get involved, and that's the kind of campus we want to have."
Music can be shared or can be very personal and moving. Regardless, many – including students, parents, directors and musicians – feel that music must be enjoyed and preserved for our future generations.
"Civilizations are most often remembered for their art and thought. I have always believed in the definition of an educated man or woman as one who could, if necessary, redound his or her civilization. That means we must teach our students more than hard facts and floppy disks. We must teach them the rich artistic inheritance of our culture and an appreciation of how fine music enriches both the student who studies it and the society that produces it ... The existence of strong music and fine arts curricula are important to keeping the humanities truly humanizing and liberal arts education truly liberating."