As I sat down to write my first opinion piece I was admittedly stumped on what to write about. Today’s political turmoil certainly would provide ample fodder for a tirade or two, but as I attended Chester High School’s winter concert I found a near and dear subject with which to climb upon my soapbox.
With minimal effort anyone can search the Internet for studies and statistics showing the benefits of exposure to music instruction while in elementary, middle and high school. These studies show a high correlation between academic achievement and music education, but there are things that statistics don’t explain quite as well.
As I said, the inspiration for this piece came while attending a student performance. Listening, with my eyes half-closed, I remembered my own performances, and I found myself tapping in rhythm as the students played.
From an early age, as a matter of fact it was fourth grade, I knew that an education without music would be utterly inferior to an education that included it.
In my fourth-grade year, the students of Westwood, high school and elementary alike, walked out of their classes in protest over the proposed shutdown of the music program. The act of civil disobedience worked and to this day the music program has survived.
Perhaps it was the passion that I witnessed that day for the music program that ingrained itself into my psyche. Maybe it was the eight years of music education, not including private piano lessons, band camps and honor bands, that led me to the conclusion that music is vitally important to students. Either way, my experience in music, including my Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies, in other words elementary school education, has led me to only one conclusion: music is an integral part of education.
Learning to play an instrument in school provides the student a great sense of accomplishment. It is a skill that many will keep throughout their lives, but even if they don’t retain the ability to play the instrument the memories will most certainly linger.
In my own case, not only do I still play the trumpet, I own the horn I played throughout high school. Playing an instrument still provides me with a sense of accomplishment.
It is this sense that I witnessed as I watched the students perform. As each piece ended and applause filled the gymnasium, I could see success in their faces. They knew that they had worked hard to learn the pieces, practiced for hours, and now as the final notes echoed off the walls, they had grown as musicians and as young adults.
In this time of economic upheaval, state budget cuts to schools and the uncertainty in education, it is more important than ever to remember that education isn’t only about the reading, writing, mathematics and other core subjects. Without music, our students will receive an incomplete education.
Think about how music impacts your life. Even if you don’t play an instrument I would be willing to bet that you hear it every day while driving in the car. Music is one of the things that define us socially, and is an undeniable part of our society.
If music is removed from education, no matter the reason, then in essence a piece of societal education will be lost as well. To put it bluntly, taking music out of education will negatively impact our entire society.
Music must be maintained in education at any cost. Politicians in Sacramento may argue over budget cuts, and certainly they see education as an area that can be cut, but in enacting their cuts they must be careful that they don’t pare down education to its meanest form, which for me is an education without music. The detriment to society if music is taken from education would be almost inconceivable.