Music programs and Music Therapy programs in schools are often cut, or significantly modified, because of budget constraints. Somehow, the logic goes, music is “extra” thus it need not be fully funded. It pains me that we must fight to have the arts in school because the arts are thought of as fringe and not fundamental. Even with all the research that shows the vital part music can play in productivity, music is still considered “just music.” Even though it seems there is no other activity in the world that works the brain harder, music’s role in school continues to be questioned.
I do find myself wondering if it is just budget constraints that are putting our music programs in jeopardy or is there a lack of belief that music truly matters in the big picture? I believe music programs in school help our kids and communities be better—at pretty much everything.
Music Therapy, although different than other music programming, also continues to have a significant place in our schools, especially as many more children are being diagnosed with mental health and learning needs – best addressed and treated by health care professionals. Families, educators, and healthcare professionals, together, are committed to ensure that every one of our children has access to a path that helps them experience success and and higher levels of contribution.
Here are my top 3 reasons why music needs to be in every school:
1. To foster connection and bridge culture and economic differences. Although we have more instant access to our friends and family via technology there tends be a lack of connection that can only come with human to human contact working and being creative together. Music is a celebration of who we are and an exploration into our diversity. If we truly value this and believe that it is a strong component of our social fabric then music can celebrate these differences in a non-threatening, positive way. Music gives us an opportunity to gain a wider perspective on cultural history and backgrounds by being exposed to centuries of rich heritage.
“Music is a magical gift we must nourish and cultivate in our children, especially now as scientific evidence proves that an education in the arts makes better math and science students, enhances spatial intelligence in newborns, and let’s not forget that the arts are a compelling solution to teen violence, certainly not the cause of it!”
Michael Greene, Recording Academy President and CEO at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards, February 2000.
2. To develop other academic skills. Music skills are proven to transfer over to study skills, communication skills, and cognitive skills; in other words, it is useful in every part of the curriculum. Music when done with the right intention is able to assist all children regardless of age or abilities, abolishing another potential societal gap. Aside from the social benefits, students in high school music programs have higher test scores and cognitive development. A U.S. Department of Education study found that those who reported consistent involvement in music programs during school years show significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12 – regardless of students’ socioeconomic status. Additionally, students who learn music develop a greater ability to learn a new language.11
3. To give students the opportunity to contribute to something greater than themselves. Each of us wants our children to feel successful in school, successful in employment, and successful in the social structures through which they participate. Music gives an opportunity to reach out to others, participate in a joint experience and then share….share with the audience, share with their cohort, share with parents who support them, share with the teachers that help them learn and share with the community that pays the taxes to ensure students receive life-giving education. Music gives something back and allows the listener to feel rewarded for their contribution in making it happen. Music is a two way communication that can make all people feel connected.
“Music is about communication, creativity, and cooperation and by studying music in school, students have the opportunity to build on these skills, enrich their lives, and experience the world from a new perspective.” – Bill Clinton, former President, United States of America