Recently, I had what Oprah would most likely deem an "Aha" moment. It came after I watched and listened to an amazing performance by our school’s concert band. It was held in our school's gym, with about 800 people watching. As I listened to the music, I looked around at the crowd and saw dozens of students playing air drums and other instruments. This got me thinking about the number of students who could benefit from music education. But, with shrinking budgets, this will not happen any time soon.
I knew that Ms. Sara Bennett Wealer was going to drop by DeRaps Reads for a guest post and knew that her book dealt with two former friends who compete musically. So, I figured Ms. Bennett Wealer might have an opinion or two about the state of music education in our schools. And, I was right!
When people talk about cutting back on music in public education, I often feel like they’re speaking a foreign language. Music was such an important part of my own educational experience that the idea of curtailing or eliminating it just doesn’t compute. Music gave me confidence. It opened new worlds. It made me excited to go to school and kept me motivated when other subjects had me discouraged.
I often think that the people who want to cut music from public education aren’t thinking about it the right way. They act like music is an “extra” when, really, music can be an integral part of the learning experience.
In fact, you could create an entire curriculum with music as the glue that holds each subject together:
Languages – How many of us learned French by singing Frere Jacques? I remember my German lessons because our teacher taught us “Du, du liegst mir im hertzen.” Heck, music is its own language, and one that few people end up regretting having learned.
Literature/Poetry – From lyrics and librettos to symphonies and operas based on myth, legend and classic literature, your lesson plan is almost written for you!
History/Cultures – You can explore everything from daily living, religion and folklore to major historical events by looking at the music people were singing with and for one another.
Science – How do the parts of the body work together to give you your voice? What are the physics of pitch? The mechanics of how a trombone works? How do animals in nature use musical sounds to communicate?
Math – This is a biggie for me. A friend of mine told me his daughter’s school was teaching math by having the children stomp out rhyhms on the floor, and I was so jealous! If someone had taught me that way I might not have grown up terrified of numbers.
I remember the first time I really, truly understood math – it happened when I was singing Bach’s B-Minor Mass with a symphony chorus. When rehearsals first started, I HATED the piece. It was painful and tedious and hard, with all sorts of changing rhythms, byzantine fugues and harmonies, just a brick wall that I couldn’t get my brain around. I tried to fake it – tried to follow the people next to me, tried to limp along, and I ended up with a headache, a sore throat and a tongue-lashing from my director.
I was forced to face the music – I HAD to count. I had to do the math. I had to work the problem, no shortcuts. So I coaxed my brain into really analyzing and reading, and…
…Seriously? It got way trippy. After a couple more rehearsals, things suddenly clicked! And I felt like I had literally walked into the music. The music took on three dimensions, like I was inside of it – almost like being in an architectural geometric structure. I could feel and hear and see and understand what the numbers were creating, and it was so much more than just digits on a page. It was a gorgeous masterpiece that I love to this day.
Why, oh why couldn’t I have had that experience at age15?
With today’s focus on standardized testing, I worry that this kind of creative thinking just isn’t being done when it comes to music in public schools. But perhaps we need it more than ever.
Music can get test-weary kids out of their seats. It can help them experience what they’re learning, not just memorize it. It can bring concepts to life.
Perhaps, instead of putting music in a separate classroom, we should make every classroom musical. Maybe then we’d see that it’s not an “extra” at all!
And, now for the giveaway. I am so very jealous that one of you is going to win this amazing prize pack. One lucky commenter with a US address will win:
A copy of Rival
This cute necklace!
How awesome is that?! To enter, simply comment with an answer to this question:
How has music been important or influential in your life?
Open to US entrants only
Contest Ends 2/20/2011
Please leave an email address so that I can contact you if you win!