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Tight Budgets Reduce School Programs – But Should Music Education Be Cut? [POLL]

Students rehearse with Eric Whitacre
vocalessence/Flickr

In Philadelphia, Penn., the Great Valley School Board proposed in March that athletic programs, social workers and elementary school music lessons be cut in order to close a $5.6 million financial gap and stay within budget for the 2012-2013 school year, according to Pete Kennedy on Patch.com. To date, no final decisions have been made.

 

Similar scenarios play out across the country as academic budgets continue to tighten and schools must make tough decisions when it comes to cutting programs. At times like this, money may become the primary focus and it can dictate what role music education takes in the classroom. But why is it important to keep music in education?

Recently, I attended a recital at College Hill Elementary School to watch my niece play the viola with her music class under the direction of Jimmy Jones, who taught music for 39 years and only recently retired.

While I watched the budding musicians perform their final concert of the year in front of friends, family, classmates and other teachers, I saw the pride each student took in his music as they performed music like “Can-Can” and “Ode to Joy.”

“These students have come a long way, many having never played an instrument before,” Jones told the audience during the concert.

May Orchestra Concert
Meredith Bell/Flickr

The event reminded me why many of my own music educators were so important to me, from the early ones I took piano lessons from like Brigette Gregory and Lori Bruick, to the choir teachers I performed with at university like Drew Collins and Cara Tasher.

Each of them taught me about music, introducing me to and making me perform pieces I’d never heard of, sometimes in languages I could barely pronounce. But through music, they opened my eyes to the possibilities of sound, the perfection of harmony, and how beautifully solitary notes can blend together to create masterpieces I will never forget.

While listening to my niece perform though, I also thought about how much self-confidence performing music gives students, something they don’t always learn in every class. That’s why the thought of music education being cut from schools is so horrifying.

One of my co-workers, DJ Michael McDonald, also has a big appreciation for what music education has done for his family. McDonald’s son Michael, 13, has performed with the New Boston Middle School for the last three years. Diagnosed with ADHD, young Michael’s grades suffered and his social skills were substandard prior to playing music.

But music changed the boy’s life for the better. “[Michael] takes pride in playing the trumpet in band and I believe music has been a wonderful inspiration and a great energy outlet,” McDonald says of his son.

Now, because of the minimum 3.0 GPA requirement to remain in band, young Michael tries hard and actually succeeds in bringing home great grades. Because of music, he’s made many friends, is an A/B Honor Roll Student and holds third chair for trumpet in band.

Urbandale High School Band
richardswearinger/Flickr

In some instances, the relationship between music teacher and student can be a lifelong connection. Contributor Darcy Fink performed in school choruses and choirs in Southern California from grade school through high school. “Our director, “Mr. K,” was so skilled he was able to bring excellence out of us, and oftentimes the sound that resulted would move me to the point of tears,” Fink said.

Fink and “Mr. K” (Richard Kinzler) reunited 25 years after she graduated from West Covina, California’s Edgewood High School in 1970 and the pair stayed in touch until his death in 2011. During dinner together one night, they discussed their concert performances during the late 1960s, several of which they recorded on vinyl. Kinzler told Fink he shared those recordings with other university directors, and they thought they were listening to another university choir. “He said that with great pride,” Fink remembers.

Over the years, Kinzler and Fink would talk about music many times. “It really pleased him that my love of music has never diminished,” Fink said. “Great music teachers can have a profound effect on the students who let them.”

Watch a tribute to Richard Kinzler below and tell us if you think music education is important in schools!

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