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Music Education in Schools
In a modern day society, the lack of appreciation for arts classes or the lack of funding in schools causes many music programs to be cut. Some schools are being forced to have these classes available only every other day, if they’re even available at all. Instead of starting to teach children an instrument in the fourth grade some schools are forced to save money and wait until the child is in the fifth grade. Although this is happening, many people would be shocked to discover just what music does for a child and why music programs should not be cut from schools.
When it comes down to money, a school’s Board of Education makes the decision to cut a class of the arts because a student is not tested in music or art like they are in math or English class (DeForge). Samuel Hope, the director of the National Association of Schools and Music said that there are five ways that we communicate with one another. The first, and most obvious, is through letters and words in the form of English. The second, through numbers and symbols, in the form of mathematics. Architecture and design are the third, dance, film and images are the fourth and the fifth is music and sound. The last three are as important as the first two but for some reason are not as recognized as English and math (Levy). However, music is one of the five mediums of communication, budget cuts create fear in schools in the fact that they will not be able to afford music classes the following school year (DeForge). According to the No Child Left Behind law in addition to regular core subject classes, schools are required to have arts available to students. They would like children to be able to receive benefits from arts education (Fogel). Because of the lack of money for music education teachers have to be creative to bring music and arts into their classroom (DeForge). This is very important because if a child is missing out on the benefits of music education because of school funding, they should still be able to have some exposure to it. The problem with this theory is that many teachers just do not know how to incorporate music into their lesson plans (Levy). According to journalist Jeanette Deforge, having and arts portion to a child’s education makes the education “well rounded”. She said that music changes the way a child focuses and learns therefore it makes a difference to students. The value of music in schools is constantly being condensed into numbers and boring statistics yet Henry Fogel believes that music is much more than the “black and white of numbers”. The value of music is immeasurable and everlasting. The facts show that budget cuts that are taking music programs away from students have an impact on the students’ lives. These cuts take away the chance for a child to learn through a different medium and once again arts programs are put aside to focus on “standard studies” (Levy).
Upon asking a person what music does for their everyday life a typical reply to expect would be “little” or “nothing at all”. Really thinking about it, music is a constant in modern everyday life. Every movie, show or play ever created incorporates some sort of music. Because music is a constant, no one has ever stopped and thought about what life would be like without music. No songs, concerts or dances would exist. Movies would be silent and iPods and MP3 players wouldn’t exist. Music in everyday life, to most people, looks like “an extra that’s not essential to society and culture”, but what most people don't realize is that music, wherever created, is a stamp of that time period and culture. For example, a very easy way to learn about African culture is to look at the music produced in Africa. An easy way to show how music is sneaking back into people’s everyday lives is through the media. Shows such as So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, The Singing Bee and The Voice are just a few examples of weekly shows that get people interested in music. By watching these shows the viewer develops a better musical ear for what sounds good and what does not. “People have always found music significant in their lives, whether for enjoyment in listening, performing or creating” writes modern composer Gilbert Galindo. If they did not, all of the technology for music on the go such as the iPod, MP3 and car CD player would not have been invented (Galindo).
To children, especially young ones, music is new and exciting and they become interested in this new medium (Levy). Music is proven to increase the speed at which people learn. A study done with children at the age of three years old proved this theory. This study took a group of preschoolers and gave them some type of musical instruction for six months. Before and after the six-month period the children were tested on how quickly they could put a puzzle together. The results showed that just six months of musical instruction increased the children’s results dramatically (Olsen). Students studying music in elementary school tested higher on math and reading tests than their non musical classmates. Music students’ scores on the SAT were proven to be at least 60 points higher than students taking it without musical instruction (“Music”). Another study was done with two schools in the same area to prove or disprove that music helps students learn better. 46 students who studied music were used from one school and 57 students from the other school did not study music. The music school students received three years of piano lessons. After testing both schools before and after on the students’ reading skills there was a significant increase in the student’s scores that had studied music where the non-musical student’s scores stayed the same. The music group had “significantly better vocabulary and verbal sequencing skills” than the non musical school group. This study proved to educators that using music to help teach increases the academic skills of their students. Though the study had satisfying results there were some flaws that occurred with it. The music group had already received two years of music lessons previous to the study so logically shouldn't they already of had better scores? The following investigation of the scored results led to the following conclusions: the period of summer vacation was too long to sustain any advancement from music education, the first two years of musical instruction was not enough to improve a child’s skills, and that the brain of the students when the study was being done was at a time when the brain was developing more than it had previously. It is a fact that a child’s brain develops significantly starting at the age of seven. The first year of the study was done when all of the children were about seven years old. These conclusions proved that what to teach children is just as important as when to teach it (“Why Should Schools Have Music?”). In an interview with Tom Home he said “There’s lots of evidence that kids immersed in the arts do better on academic tests.” (Levy). An eight-month study with 19 musical preschoolers and 15 non musical preschoolers Tom Home’s quotation was proven. In just four months of music instruction the musical children’s scores improved dramatically while the other children’s scores did not (Olsen). These studies show that any amount of time with music instruction for young children makes an impact on their academic performance.
“With the ability to influence behavior, social skills, sensitivity and general achievement, music can have positive effects on many aspects of life.” By using both sides of the brain, music is proven to increase listening skills and concentration. Learning an instrument increases a child’s hand-eye coordination (“Music’s Importance is Underrated”). Learning an instrument requires coordination and comprehension and practicing an instrument can help fine tune these skills. Learning to read music is like learning a different language. The symbols, note values and the variety of arrangements are like letters, numbers and words (Galindo). Children who have received music education develop a greater spatial intelligence. With this intelligence a child learns how to think creatively and solve problems (Twelve Benefits of Music Education”). There has been a known connection between music education and mathematics. The principals of music such as note reading, eighth, quarter, half and whole notes are equivalent to mathematical fractions. (Levy). Numbers and symbols in music are the same as decoding numbers and symbols in a math or science class (“Music”). The many layers of music are what make it interesting. There are melodies, harmonies, a fast or slow tempo and all of the rhythms to play or sing never mind the words and story behind the music or the endless amounts of instruments to play the music with (Galindo). Words for a musical piece in a foreign language give students a glimpse into a different culture. Many musicians wonder why students must be taught Shakespeare but not Bach or Mozart (Levy). This is because of the lack of music education in schools and the misunderstanding of how much music actually does for a student.
A child’s brain develops for many years after birth. Music education helps develop the areas of the brain associated with reasoning and language. This is why it is easier to remember information when it is put to a familiar tune. Music education helps develop a variety of skills. By participating in a music class a student learns craftsmanship, or what it takes to arrange a musical piece. There are several components to putting together a piece of music. All of the notes, rhythms and time signatures leave a variety of arrangements to create a piece like no other. Another key ingredient to a successful student is hard work. There are many things to a successful performance; the correct notes, a tuned instrument, coming in for the correct entrances, the rests and also obeying the correct rhythms. “Through music study, students learn the value of sustained effort to achieve excellence and the concrete rewards of hard work.” (“Twelve Benefits of Music Education”). A student in choir or band learns time management, taking turns and being reliable. A band or choir teaches students how to not only work together but to work on their own. Showing up for rehearsals on time and being prepared for those rehearsals by practicing at home shows how a student would become reliable and would learn how to become prepared (“Music’s Importance is Underrated”). In order to sound good students have to learn their own part and be able to put it together with other students. In order to accomplish this, students must practice, attend rehearsal and work together (“Twelve Benefits of Music Education”). Once a child realizes that they can perform with other students their self-image becomes better and their self-esteem increases. Interacting within a group increases the child’s social skills (“Music”). This social interaction increases valuable skills such as taking turns, listening and respect for others. Music education has a positive physical impact on a student as well as social and emotional effects. Learning an instrument increases a child’s hand eye coordination as well as their motor skills (Levy). A child learns to cooperate and create with others while under the influence of music education (Galindo). Through music education and learning an instrument students actually learn valuable skills for the workplace. Students learn how to take action instead of just observing others take action. Opposed to letting others do all of the work, leading as part of a vocal or instrumental group shows how a student would take action to learn their part. According to “Twelve Benefits of Music Education”, risk taking is a very important part of growing up. As a musical performance is very nerve racking, completing a performance successfully helps children positively face their fears and also deal with stress and anxiety. Keeping children involved with music in school is proven to keep children from making bad decisions like drug and alcohol use (“Twelve Effects of Music Education”). The tremendous physical, social and emotional effects of music on students continuously questions why music is often seen as an extracurricular in schools today.
Music sets a higher standard for students. The drive to perform to the absolute best of an ability keeps students “on their toes” and keeps them constantly striving to do better than before. Music is an outlet for self-expression. The variety of music that exists today ensures that everyone can find a type that is right for them (“Twelve Benefits of Music Education”). Ever since the day of birth, a baby’s head is filled with music. The first time a baby bangs together pots and pans or shakes a rattle is the first time they encounter patterns, rhythms and tones of music (“Music’s Importance is Underrated”). The authors of a study that was published in the journal Psychology of Music wanted to show how music education could improve the performance of students in school. The authors agree that the entire brain is used to process music therefore the paths of the brain are strengthened overall. The brain is improved because the paths used for processing music overlap with the paths used to process everyday tasks making the brain stronger and more intelligent (“Why Should Schools Have Music?”). The importance of music is often overlooked. Just because the real importance of music is underappreciated why should generations of students miss out on its valuable lessons? “When consideration is being given to program and budget cuts administrators, parents and teachers need to know that music education is not just an extra elective, but a vital part of complete academic education.” (“Music”).
DeForge, Jeanette. “Fine Arts Programs Being Cut at Schools Across Western Mass.” Mass Live. The Republican Newsroom. August 1, 2009. Web. 23 May 2012.
Fogel, Henry. “The Importance of Music Education.” On the Record. March 14, 2007. Web. 2 May 2012.
Galindo, Gilbert. “The Importance of Music in Our Society.” Gilbert Galindo. November 2003. Web. 2 May 2012.
Levy, Debra. “The Importance of Music in Schools.” denverpost.com. Denver Post. Web. 2 May 2012.
“Music’s Importance is Underrated.” Music Education Online. Children’s Music Workshop. 2012. Web. 16 May 2012.
“Music” Music Education Online. Children’s Music Workshop. 2012 Web. 16 May 2012.
Olsen, Kristian David . “The Effects of Music on the Mind.” Reverse Spins. February 1996. Web. 8 May 2012.
“Twelve Benefits of Music Education” Music Education Online. Children’s Music Workshop. 2012. Web. 16 May 2012.
“Why Should Schools Have Music?” Music Education Online. Children’s Music Workshop. 2012. Web. 16 May 2012.