Music is an integral part of humanity, affecting everyday lives in a variety of ways. Music is used as communication and as art, as a business, and even as medicine. It’s been proven to boost IQ and to affect mood. Yet many schools are phasing music out of their curriculum. With state-mandated tests taking priority, those subjects that aren’t assessed on a standardized test are quickly fading out. Budget cuts and finance redirection leave instrumental and vocal programs without funding, without basic equipment, and in many cases, without teachers. How can this be acceptable, when the No Child Left Behind Act states: “The term ‘core academic subjects’ means English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, ARTS, history, and geography”? When so many of the people we consider great were musicians? When so many studies have proven the benefits of music?
There have been numerous studies performed that identify a correlation between musical curriculum studies and success in school, as well as in life. A 2001 study by The College Entrance Examination Board showed that college-bound seniors who had taken coursework or had experience in music performance and appreciation had higher SAT scores than students with no arts participation- 57 and 63 points higher, with respect to performance and appreciation on the verbal portion, and 41 and 44 points higher, respectively, on the math section. The study “The Case for Music in the Schools,” Phi Delta Kappan, February 1994, revealed that 66% of music majors who applied to medical school were accepted, the highest percentage of any group. In contrast, only 44% of biochemistry majors were admitted. And according to Donald A. Hodges, a researcher at the University of Miami, music is the only activity that requires using almost the entire brain, as proven by CAT scans and MRIs.
With results like these, it can only be the truth that music truly is essential in education. Playing music changes the brain, allowing it to think more efficiently. Instituting and recommending more music education classes, based on these studies and many others, would allow more students to truly unlock their mind and have a better chance at success.
Giving every student the chance to reach their full potential is certainly fair to everyone. By opening up a new avenue for creativity and productivity through music, every student will be able to experience the thrill of performing something they’ve put so much work into in front of an audience. They’ll develop characteristics befitting the movers and shakers of the future: responsibility, work ethic, diligence, and the ability to solve problems creatively. Being a part of a musical ensemble teaches students how to work together to reach a common goal, much the same– if not better– than any sports team. I say better because not only do bands and choirs spend practice time together after school during their specific seasons, but they also spend rehearsal time together throughout the year. They also spend time working on such a variety of skills and concepts, like playing classical music, jazz, show tunes, and contemporary hits. They spend hours learning drills in the fall for half-time shows and give up weekends to achieve top ratings at contests. Students involved in music programs are often the most involved and trustworthy students in the school, thanks to the work-driven environment they spend so much time in. Each student deserves to reach their goals, and music programs certainly instill the traits and skills to assist any student to do just that.
Musical ensembles definitely lend themselves to fostering goodwill and better friendships. I can attest to this from personal experience. When I reached the middle school, I was somewhat of a loner, always with my nose in a book. I had been playing trumpet for two years, and singing all my life, but I wasn’t really close to anyone, since the faces were constantly changing around me. Fifth and sixth graders don’t stay interested in much for long. Everything changed, though, through the band program. I met some of the best friends I still have when I walked into band with Ms. Shauf at Heskett Middle School in the Bedford (Ohio) City School District. I really started to open up after meeting some of the eighth graders, and I haven’t retreated into my shell since.
The marching band is the ideal organization for creating friendship and school spirit and a general sense of family and camaraderie. Spending a week rehearsing at home, living with the same people for a week at band camp, and being forced to go on lengthy bus rides with those same people probably has something to do with it. Seniors foster a relationship with their freshmen– Greenies, as they’re affectionately called at Bedford High School– through a series of fun, albeit laughable costumes and activities. Section leaders and squad leaders establish a mentor-mentee relationship with the group they lead. These connections last for quite some time, and nurture the goodwill and friendships that smooth the transition to high school (and even college) and exert a positive influence on the students and organizations.
The benefits of music education go far beyond what many outsiders give them credit for. Naturally, music is entertaining to the masses. But students involved also develop into hard-working, productive, and creative citizens. They boost test scores and provide faces to promote the schools and programs to the community. The knowledge gained in these classes and groups also creates the men and women who become entertainers, advertisers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, authors, and entrepreneurs. Music provides jobs, and people who have the experience, knowledge, and desire to fill these jobs are in high demand. If the programs educating these employees and employers are edged out of existence by those subjects considered more important due to testing, then we will eliminate an entire field of positions and displace the professionals that fill them.
Music is essential to human life, in more ways than one. It is an escape, an expression, an education, and a preparation for life.