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Music is heard every day, but many people do not take the time to think how it is made. Every musician has to start somewhere, and most of them started with early music education. The average public school has music education that starts in kindergarten with general music classes and ends in high school with band, orchestra, or choir. Many students would agree that music is their favorite class. Although students enjoy music classes because they are fun, they are also the building blocks for the students’ core academic classes.
Many lessons learned from music can be brought into other classes to aid in the learning process. Students learn manners, etiquette, and respect through the fine arts. This helps students become better citizens in their communities. Music classes give students the chance to work together as a team to achieve a common goal, and it also helps students grow socially. Leadership skills and confidence are often refined and developed in these types of classes.
Many core academic classes are not able to build student confidence and leadership through traditional “in-class” methods.
According to Angela Hampton, a distinguished music educator, “Musical involvement activates more areas of the brain than any other activity. The right brain is involved in the experiential aspects; the left brain is involved with the analytical, structural elements of music; the limbic system controls the emotional response to music” (Hampton 1). It has been shown in numerous studies that musicians score higher on standardized tests because music involves the left side of the brain which involves complex logic and critical thinking.
Music students also have the opportunity to have experiences that will last throughout their lifetime. There are not many other academic programs that offer the same rewards as music programs offer. Instrumental and vocal music education in public schools is offered from Kindergarten through twelfth grade is vital for the growth and expansion of a student’s life and education.
Instrumental and vocal music education usually starts at a very young age. Public schools often start general music classes in Kindergarten when children are around six years old. These music classes consist of singing of common songs, interactive listening activities, and the performance of basic musical instruments. General music classes are extremely important for the development of children. “Children who are fortunate enough to be exposed to weekly music lessons, choir rehearsals, creative movement, or general music classes reap many benefits. We all love watching little children dance around the room with little or no inhibition, singing along with their favorite songs in a voice that’s clear and strong, though maybe a little out of tune.
Music is an obvious outlet for self-expression and creativity” (Guth). General music classes give students a break from the normal classroom day and a chance to participate in more relaxed group activity. When students are in the fourth and fifth grades, they get the chance to play musical instruments like the recorder, and learn the standard western notation all musicians use. Students also get to participate in band class where they can learn instruments like the saxophone, trumpet, and flute. This is a vital time in a student’s life because he/she is learning and gathering a wealth of knowledge in a relatively short period of time. Throughout middle school, students will continue to sharpen their skills on their own personal instruments and have a chance to gain confidence while performing solos and participating in different festivals and competitions. When music students get to high school, they have proven they are serious about music and are ready for the challenges they will face in the future. In high school, students have the opportunity to be in marching band.
Marching band is a very important part of a music program. Students will learn discipline and learn how to work as a team. Along with the team work, music students often have experiences they would not be able to have without band. Marching bands often travel and perform, sometimes even out of state. These trips and other experiences can produce memories that last a lifetime. Sadly, with the current hard economic times, music programs across the United States are losing funding and sometimes even being cut. Elementary music classes are usually the first to be cut when a school district faces hard times. If the crisis a school is facing is severe middle school and high school programs could lose funding. This can drastically affect a student’s education. Many educators agree that it is in the best interest of all school districts to keep funding their music programs.
This is stated best in The Benefits of Studying Music, “If public education is to help all our children reach their individual potential and serve the collective good of our society, music must be a part of the education of all American children” (Benefits 1). It is vital for students to have music education in their curriculum; the benefits truly outweigh the costs. Throughout their schooling, some students have a hard time fitting in. To some, socializing does not come easy. Music classes can regularly fix this problem, by giving students a sense of purpose. In large and small ensembles, students play individual parts which are equally important to the ensemble. This sense of importance can make students feel needed and boost their confidence. Other confidence boosters for musicians are festivals and competitions. There are two main competitions for middle school and high school musicians, solo and ensemble competitions and ensemble festivals. In solo and ensemble competitions students prepare a piece to be played with an ensemble or solo for a judge. At the end of the performance, the judge gives the student or students constructive comments on their performance and also gives them a rating.
Students compete for medals that they can display showing their dedication and hard work. The second type of competition is a large ensemble festival. In these types of festivals a full band will play three pieces of contrasting style for a panel of notable judges. When the band or orchestra is finished with their three pieces they will sight read a piece. While sight reading, the band has never rehearsed the piece and only has five minutes to look at it before they perform it. Both of these competitions build a student’s confidence in different ways. In the solo competitions, students are responsible for rehearsal and preparation for the entire solo. They also have to perform it alone for the judge, which can be very difficult to do. In the large ensemble competitions, each student is responsible for being a good team member by knowing and playing their own part well, in turn bettering the entire ensemble. When students are left responsible for learning their music on their own, but along with learning the music, students are learning discipline and leadership.
In a music class, it almost seems as if leadership is contagious; when one student works hard, every student works hard. There are not many core academic classes that allow any student to become a leader and a positive role model. The biggest reason music education is vital for a school district is because music can apply to other subjects. According to the associate dean of the School of Fine Arts at the University of Kansas Christopher Johnson, music helps develop a student’s attentiveness. Johnson performed a study comparing elementary schools with strong music programs against schools with weaker music programs in the area of standardized tests. He found the elementary schools with the superior programs had twenty percent higher math test scores and twenty-two percent higher English test scores than the schools with less superior music programs (Lynch). Research on the topic was also done by Dr. Diana Hollinger a music education instructor at San Jose University.
The connection of math and music is in the note reading for instance. Quarter, half and whole notes can be applied to fractions, and numbers as well as symbols can also apply to mathematics. The word reading in songs can apply to languages arts, just to mention a couple of ways music is useful in academics, says Dr. Diana Hollinger, Music Education Instructor, San Jose State University. In 2006 a national survey found that in the five years after enactment of NCLB (No Child Left Behind), that 44% of the school districts increased time spent on academic classes like English language arts and math and decreased time on other subjects. The follow-up analysis in Feb. 2008 showed that 16% of the school districts decreased class time for music and art. (qtd. in Levy)
Many researchers and music educators believe music students perform better than non-music students in the classroom because music helps students form better study habits. Musicians are expected to practice every day to keep their skills sharp and to better their abilities. Students must be able to balance and budget their time to include practicing along with their other school work. When music students form a routine with their practice schedule, they also form a routine with their study schedule. Another considered reason why musicians are better students is because of the area of the brain music affects. When a person reads sheet-music and plays it on an instrument they are using the left side of their brain. This is the side that involves logic and critical thinking. “A recent study from the University of California found that music trains the brain for higher forms of thinking. Second graders who were given music lessons scored 27% higher on proportional math and fractions tests than children who received no special instruction” (Music).
While playing, the musician is thinking about multiple factors that are involved in his or her playing. Factors like intonation, balance, and blend are thought about and adjusted while the musician is playing. Having to think about so many things at once helps the musician to focus and think critically. This type of critical thinking used in the solving of complex math problems. There are not just positive academic reasons music education is important, there are also social reasons. Music students regularly have numerous friends; many of them are other music students. This is due to the fact that all musicians share a common bond in the ability play an instrument. Playing an instrument is a specialized skill in which many people are not able to do. Many students have problems making friends in school. Band class gives students the opportunity to meet new students that they share things in common with.
A great example of this is marching band. In high school and college, marching band is the highlight of the fall. From July to October, a music program in any school is completely focused on marching band. This specialized band often starts before the school year and has rehearsals both before and after school. Students spend many hours a week with the same people rehearsing for the same goal. During rehearsals, the band will often participate in team-building exercises which are usually fun and helps the students get to know each other better, and relieves the stresses of rehearsal. Marching band can also help incoming freshmen adapt to high school life quicker. A letter to freshmen from the New Hanover High School band explains the positive factors of being in marching band. Socially, for freshmen, you’ll already know some sixty to eighty plus odd friends when you first hit the halls at NHHS! You have had a chance to meet people who will help you prepare for the year. You have upperclassmen available to you for information, who won’t sell you an elevator pass, pool pass or any other non-existent item. You will have people who want to see you succeed and will look out for you.
The genuinely group-oriented environment makes band a subsocial life and everyone fits in somewhere. Your four years in band will provide awesome leadership opportunities! You have an opportunity to grow in the community as well as the school by being seen at the many performances of the band. You lead the crowd on Friday nights. You entertain during games and performances. You lead people to a place of excitement in your performances. You may become a section leader or field conductor and help to lead the entire organization as we strive to succeed on the field and off (Why). Since the marching season starts in July before the school year starts, freshmen music students have advantages that non-music students do not have. Freshman in marching band also have the chance to be inside of their school before everyone else which allows the students to gain a sense where classes, lockers, and bathrooms are at. Students also are able to make friends with upperclassmen which will give freshmen friends to turn to if they need help. Society does not put a high enough value on music education in public schools.
Every student needs to have the chance to participate in the fine arts, one way or another. Music is a great way to aid a student in his/her growth academically and socially. Music is vital in our public schools; it is a huge part of many students’ lives. Music is able to build and form individuals into bright, confident leaders. Marching band and different music competitions are responsible this boost in confidence. Along with the social aspect, music education also helps students earn better grades outside of band class. Playing an instrument forces students to have good time management and also teaches them to focus better. This is why it has been proven that music students score higher standardized test scores than non-music students. Students also become well rounded individuals when participating in music because they learn about proper etiquette and manners. Music education is a vital part of a child’s education, and it belongs in all public schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
“The Benefits of the Study of Music is a brochure that was sponsored by The National Association for Music Education. The brochure’s goal is to stress the idea that students who participate in music will receive higher grades and further their education. Inside of the brochure, there are many quotes from different educators and political figures advocating for music education. The sponsors of the brochure, The National Association for Music Education is an organization that helps advocate for music education in public schools. The group also supplies tools for educators to further their music education programs.
Patricia Guth is a distinguished elementary music educator from Pennsylvania. She has a choral music education degree from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. Guth authored “The Importance of Music Education” which is an article about music at the elementary level. In the article Patricia goes into detail the importance of elementary music education.
Angela Hampton is a well-respected music educator for Floyd Central High School. “A Cognitive Crescendo – How Music Affects the Brain” is an issue of Chor Teach which is a publication for music educators that covers a wide variety education related topics. “A Cognitive Crescendo” covers the topic of music and the brain. This issue is very informative and has been researched deeply. The issue covers the different processes of the brain that music triggers and how the brain is affected by those processes.
“The Importance of Music in Schools” is an article in The Denver Post written by guest writer Debra Levy. In this online article, Levy explains how today students spend less time in fine arts classes than ever before. She uses research from Dr. Diana Hollinger of San Jose University to confirm this claim. The article also explains how music education can aid students in other academic classes.
“Music Boosts Test Scores” is a transcribed broadcast from the University of Kansas on the topic of the relationship between standardized test scores and music. Host Brendan Lynch interviews Christopher Johnson who is a professor of music education and associate dean of The School of Fine Arts at the University of Kansas. Johnson explains how music directly relates to standardized test scores, and stresses the importance of music in schools.
“Music Education Online” is a webpage sponsored by Children’s Music Workshop. The content of the main website contains advocacy information for music education. “Music Education Online” has numerous reasons why music is important in a student’s life. This site also has many great advocacy quotes that can be used in flyers or papers. There is also a wealth of information and tools for students and educators to help better their music programs.
“Why Marching Band is Important in Your Overall Music Experience!” is a letter that is given to freshmen music students as New Hanover High School. The director of bands, Ray McCoy gives this letter to incoming freshmen as a way to ease their mind about the challenges they will encounter as a new marching band member. This letter has a great message regarding the social aspects of band, but it also goes into detail about how marching band will help you musically too.
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