At the recent Canadian Orff Conference, a teacher who has taken several of my summer courses shared that his son wrote a paper about the importance of music education. He told his son to watch my TEDx talk and to read a few of the things I had written. How happy did that make me? And yet more so when I asked if I could read the piece and he sent it to me. And so I share it below.
Important thing to know before reading: His son, the author of this well-written, heartfelt and right-up-my-alley essay, in in 8th grade. I love this next generation!!
How many of you have heard some music this week? I can’t imagine that any of you would say no. After all, music is everywhere; it is around us all the time. Being musical is a part of what it means to be human. In fact, it may even make you smarter. Mrs. Wiersma and fellow classmates, today I am going to talk to you about the importance of music education. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato once said, “I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.” Perhaps some of you have felt that music is not very important in education. If so, I want to challenge you with my belief that music education shows students that they are musical beings; that music helps students achieve higher grades; and lastly that it is important to start music early on in life.
Let’s begin with my first point. Music education provides students with the opportunity to feel that they are musical beings. This is an important aspect of self-awareness for any child, whether they pursue music or not, because it reveals a person’s passion for something creative. Music promotes discipline of the mind, which motivates one to practice, succeed and improve. Music can offer students relief of stress and it helps them to calm down and focus when finishing a task, whether they are listening or playing music. Music gives children the opportunity to belong. They feel valued because of something they can do. In an ensemble, the group depends on their musical input; their participation matters. This helps children in making friends and connections both in and outside of musical groups. Clearly, allowing children to truly believe that they are musical is a gift that can shape who they become.
Secondly, music helps students achieve higher academic scores for a few different reasons. A 2007 study in The Journal for Research in Music Education showed that music education improves students grades, especially in standardized testing. Music helps build imagination and helps to give students a good attitude towards school through an intellectual interest in learning offered through music. This is important because it allows kids to want to learn and understand new concepts and ideas. From a report done by The National Association for Music Education, schools with music programs have a graduation rate of 90.2 percent, whereas schools without these programs have a rate of 72.9 percent. This shows that a student who attends a school including musical education will do better in later years. Children who receive a musical education can obtain better math skills, because of the practice they have in counting time and rhythm. They can also develop superior auditory skills and are able to pinpoint certain patterns in different sounds better than others, such as in languages. Having these skills can contribute to employment or other opportunities.
Lastly, music education is not just for older people; in fact starting music at an earlier age is better for shaping one’s musical experience. Doug Goodkin, a forty year music education veteran from The San Francisco School, says that it is important for students to begin their music education early on, because, as he states, after the first eight or nine years of life, “any potential in the brain that doesn’t meet the right experience may be lost”. Goodkin’s approach is to immerse students in music from the very beginning of their lives. Starting early really pays off in the end, and I can talk from experience, that starting to learn when young is the best foundation for a musician. Music helps people with memorization because of the training that they have in memorizing music. When kids are using these skills at a young age, it becomes easier for them to work on these same skills when they are older. Music helps develop the part of the brain that is used for language and reasoning, which means that, if students are learning music at a young age, their language and reasoning skills may be advanced. These skills help young children to make decisions and to learn how to speak their mother tongue, as well as other languages. Starting music early is very important because it can be the most shaping thing that can be done to improve a student’s life.
You are musical, whether you like it or not. Again, hear the words of Plato who said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and joy to life and to everything.” Great schools provide an education in music for every student. Also, everyone wants better grades, and what better way to improve them, than through something fun, like music? Finally, many of you may say, “music is not for kids;” however this is not true, as I have said, it is even more important to start music as a child. After hearing about the many benefits that music has on one's life I leave you with a challenge: the next time that you can choose whether to practice music or to do something else, think about what you may be missing.