When was the last time you listened to a piece of music? For the large majority of us, the answer will be within the last day, hour, or even minute. Music is all around us everyday; we hear it on the radio, it is a part of the commercials we see on TV, it is playing while we shop for groceries. Many of us have an extensive list of music we listen to and adore on a regular basis.
It soothes my soul. Yes, even the boisterous sounds of the drum line and the brass. It is loud. It is heart-pounding…and it is my therapy.
I have always known the benefits of music education and therapy. I saw it in action as my parents taught music in their schools and were music therapists for specials needs children and adults. My connection with the Center for American Military Music Opportunities as a member of the American Military Spouses Choir has shown me the many benefits that music has in the healing and treatment of military personnel as they combat the effects of PTSD and TBI. Studies have shown the incredible power that music can have on the mind, body, and spirit. We all know this instinctively: we play music when we are sad, hurting, celebrating, or rejoicing. It helps us cope and heal.
Recently, I have begun to see an even more powerful influence of music education as I watch my daughter and her fellow band students work hard week after week to improve their half-time show in preparation for competition. Not only do I continue to see the benefits of music education for our kids, but I can now say that I consider it a NECESSITY in our schools.
Music education is a NEED, not a WANT.
Let’s just start with a few ways that music education is beneficial to children:
Enhances language development
Improves memorization skills
Fosters a desire for excellence
Increases hand-eye coordination
Boosts self-esteem and confidence
Keeps children engaged in school
Contributes to intellectual development
Encourages the use of imagination
Helps kids relax and fight stress
Teaches discipline and work ethic
Develops creative thinking ability
Teaches the benefit of teamwork
From personal experience, I can tell you that those things all hold true.
Music education programs have long fought to be a part of the conversation in our public school system. Programs are being cut or scaled down and funding is being slashed, causing parents and students to need to raise money themselves in order to keep a band or chorus running. When school systems struggle with financial needs, the arts and music seem to be first on the chopping block. I get it. We must have math and reading. We must have teachers. Many schools find themselves in a tough spot.
But I believe that music can become a target because even though we may understand the benefits of having some kind of music in our schools, we don’t see it as a NEED. Certainly that need can be filled by simply offering an after school club, or a music appreciation course, right? I don’t think so. I believe that when we remove or diminish the music programs in our school we are doing students a major disservice.
My daughter’s band program is top-notch. In addition to the many football games, concerts, pep rallies, etc. they perform each year, they participate in several competitions. On average, the band students spend an average of 300 hours after school, on the weekends, or in the summer, rehearsing and performing with the program JUST for marching season. That does not include the time they spend at home practicing their own instruments. I have had folks question why I would want my daughter to be in such an intense program that takes up so much of her life.
Why? Because it is making her a better student, a more confident young woman, improving her mental health, and preparing her to be a pretty incredible adult.
That’s a lot to expect out of a music program, right? No. It’s really not. It’s happening in music programs all over the country.
When I drive by the band rehearsals in the early evening I see the kids on the field warming up. In addition to musical warm ups, they are out there running, doing burpees, sweating their tails off so they are physically conditioned. When I am around the students at school during my volunteer hours, they are respectful and kind to the adults in their presence. The parents who are also there volunteering their time seem to genuinely enjoy being around a large group of teenagers and work their tails off to make sure the needs of such a large program are met. When the director speaks, he communicates to the kids a need for professionalism, respect for one another and hard work. He demands excellence from them. And you know what? They give it. They rise to the occasion and continue to get better each week.
And my daughter is thriving as a member of this intense program. I can tell a huge difference in the way she carries herself with more confidence, she is more focused on her academics than ever before, and after suggesting I take her out of school for a day when her Dad would be in town visiting, she insisted that no, she wanted to go to school. She does not want to miss a single day if it can be avoided. She was the new kid on the block this summer when we moved here, and like many kids in that situation, was incredibly nervous about starting school. Being a part of this band program means she has an instant family and already has a great group of friends. Friends who share a love of music and are expected to strive for excellence, respect one another, work hard, and put their best foot forward on a daily basis. Additionally, she doesn’t have the time or energy to even consider getting into trouble.
As a parent, I am thrilled. I don’t think I am alone. I hear from other parents who have children in this program or similar ones across the country and they all echo similar sentiments. One of my dear friends from high school (we were in band together) wrote this today:
“Every year our high school has their Winter Showcase. Band, chorus, strings (violin, viola, cello), guitar, dance are all featured in beautiful performances. (It is presented much like the Prism Concert at FSU, complete with the marching band entering at the end.) I cry. Every year, I cry. My oldest son went through four years of band (seven if you count middle school), and now my younger son is in his senior year of chorus. I will cry this year as well. The reason I cry is the overwhelming feeling of awe at the thought that most of these students are performing based solely on skills they have acquired in public school. It's overwhelming. And had they not had this experience during their middle and high school years, they might never have known their own talents, or been exposed to various types of music. These kids are truly talented. And beautiful. And smart. And dedicated. And when you put them all together, it's almost miraculous.”
Yes, miraculous indeed.
Recently I took a volunteer position with the band boosters and am now overseeing the fundraising efforts. I was a bit shell-shocked to realize the sheer amount of funding that band programs like ours require just to continue providing this kind of program to the students. Sure, could the program skip out on one or two competitions or skip having the kids perform marching down Main Street at Disney World this year? Of course. We wouldn’t need to raise as much money. But these kids have risen to a challenge of excellence that deserves the opportunity to showcase their talents. We are committed to making sure that the program has all of the support it needs.
Music programs all over the country are doing the same. There are many different activities that benefit our youth and they all deserve our support. Today I want to ask you to consider finding a way to support music education in your local school system. Your investment of funds, time, or resources can go a long way in helping music programs continue to grow and provide opportunities for their students to continue to excel.
Many Kind Regards,