Music Education: An Essential or an Elective?


It’s no secret that One Unified tends to go heavy on the music. With both of the founders of the site being incredibly passionate, avid music fans, it seems like one way or another our topics often meander back to the musical realm in one way or another. We’ve chronicled Woodstock. We’ve highlighted local bands like Hotlanta, Urbana, Steal Your Face, Jah People, Red Letter Life, Pure Jerry and more… We bring you a weekly entertainment calendar and try to showcase important musical happenings.
This week we’re focusing on music in a different way… in our schools. There are so many reasons why music education is important as we try to grow and develop into well-rounded human beings. This week we’re starting with the youngest of interview subjects and working our way up to demonstrate how and why music in our schools and in our lives is important, relevant and necessary at every age and stage of life. I for one know that I would not be the same without it.

Check out this fast fact-sheet about music education. Then check out today’s interview. And stay tuned all week as we talk about music education. Please share with us in our comments section or on our facebook page how and why music is important to you!

  1. Children who study music tend to have larger vocabularies and more advanced reading skills than their peers who do not participate in music lessons.
  2. Children with learning disabilities or dyslexia who tend to lose focus with more noise could benefit greatly from music lessons.
  3. Music programs are constantly in danger of being cut from shrinking school budgets even though they’re proven to improve academics.
  4. Children who study a musical instrument are more likely to excel in all of their studies, work better in teams, have enhanced critical thinking skills, stay in school, and pursue further education.
  5. In the past, secondary students who participated in a music group at school reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances (tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs).
  6. Schools with music programs have an estimated 90.2% graduation rate and 93.9% attendance rate compared to schools without music education, which average 72.9% graduation and 84.9% attendance.
  7. Regardless of socioeconomic status or school district, students (3rd graders) who participate in high-quality music programs score higher on reading and spelling tests.
  8. A Stanford study shows that music engages areas of the brain which are involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating events in our memory.
  9. Much like expert technical skills, mastery in arts and humanities is closely correlated to a greater understanding of language components.
  10. Young children who take music lessons show different brain development and improved memory over the course of a year, compared to children who do not receive musical training.
  11. Schools that have music programs have an attendance rate of 93.3% compared to 84.9% in schools without music programs.

girl-434248_1280 (2)Can you tell me how old you are and what grade you are in?
I’m 16 and I’m going into 11th grade.

Does your school have a music program?
Yes we do.

Do you have an instrumental music program (basically music instruction for kids who play instruments) or an instructional/educational program (where everyone takes music as part of the curriculum)?
We have both. We have music class, like everyone has 2 periods of music, but we only have it for half of the school year. And then there is band, which for the kids who are in the school’s band. They have that on top of their regular music class. 2 periods a week and then depending on the schedule of whats going on with shows and such, after school.

Are you in the band?
I’m not anymore. I played clarinet and violin from 5th-9th. In 10th I stopped because it got to be too much with all of the other things I had going on.

What were some of the other things?
Field hockey, homework, CCD, PSATs, swimming. It just got to be too much.

Why do you think it was music that didn’t make the cut? Why not say swimming? 
I was actually getting tired of it I guess and I felt like I had learned a lot from the teacher and if I wanted to pick it up again or keep up on it I could practice at home or take lessons at home, or even You Tube instructional stuff. There’s a ton of stuff out there.

Do you think you’ll do that?
I’m not sure about the clarinet but I plan to keep up with the violin and ultimately want to take private guitar lessons.

What do you like about playing an instrument?
I always thought it was cool to play. I like music. When I’m happy, I play music. When I’m in a bad mood, I slam my door and crank up my music. When I am sad, I put on my headphones and curl up in my bed with music. And I just think how amazing it is to be able to do something that takes people away to that place. If I’m that attached to it just listening, imagine being on the other end of that. Imagine being the one who gives that to people.

That is incredibly mature. And very true. Music has a very special way of moving people. Can you think of any other benefits to playing music as a kid or a teen?
Well, I don’t know for sure but I would think that it probably keeps kids out of trouble, keep them from maybe drinking or getting into drugs or whatever. I feel like they might get better grades. I just feel like they would be in better touch with so many things. People who can appreciate music and the messages it gives and the details of it I feel like they’re just more likely to “get it” you know? Just be overall better at understanding things.

In your regular music class what do you learn?
It’s basically music appreciation and understanding. We learn about music in society, in history, how it effects popular culture. We listen to a lot of different compositions and evaluate them. We learn notation and some composition. We learn about different composers.

That sounds interesting. When I was a kid we had music in school every week and we learned how to read notes and the difference between flat notes and sharp notes, and things like that. I think it bored a lot of people and maybe even turned them away from music. It sounds like it’s come a long way?
I guess so. We learn about music and technology and modern applications. We talk about careers in music. So, I think there is a lot more that might appeal to somebody and make them want to play.

What about people who don’t want to play. Do you think there’s still a place for music in school for them?
Definitely. They can still learn about it. It’s still beautiful. I might not want a career is history, but we still have to learn that. It’s part of having a well-rounded education.

clarinet-411015_1280Would it surprise you if I told you that there are hundreds, maybe thousands of schools not very far from here that have NO music programs at all? That budgets have been cut back and that music is sadly always one of the first things to go?
I guess it surprises me that they think that it’s a class that is disposable I guess. That it’s not important enough to be a regular class. They could cut back after school clubs or activities or something else. I’m not saying those things aren’t important, but music class is important. It’s a real thing. It’s something everyone should have to at least try to learn about, like math, science, all of that. It’s like the flip side of that, ya know? It’s like the artistic part that is the opposite of the academic part.

At this point, the 8 year-old sibling comes in and agrees to answer a question or two.

Hi. Can you tell me what grade you are in and how old you are?
I’m going into 3rd.

And how old are you?
8.

Can I ask you if you take music class at school?
No. We don’t get to do music until 4th grade I think. Or 5th

Would you like to be able to take music class? To learn about music and listen to music and maybe even learn how to play it?
Yes. When I go to 5th I’m allowed to take home like a flute or saxophone or drums or something.

Do you listen to a lot of music when you’re at home? How do you listen usually?
I listen to my iPod because I already put what I wanted on it. But I add stuff when I have money in there.

Do you think everybody should have a chance to play music?
If they want to they should play it. But they should have to take music in school since we already have to take computers and art and stuff. Not everybody like those but we have to have them.

Okay can we play a little game? I’m going to say a word and you say the first word that pops into your head:
Itunes- Money
Songs- Listen
Guitar- Cool
Mozart- Music guy
School- Summer
Math- Hard
Science- Explosion
Social Studies- History
Gym- Tired
Computers- Games
Music- Happy

Can we do that last one again?
Music- Happy

I think that says it all. If we aren’t keeping music in schools because we don’t want to waste money when they might not want a career in music, how about we do it because it makes them happy? I didn’t want a career in science, but I had to take that every year. Let’s find a balance! Maybe the rest of this week’s interviews will help underscore the music in schools debate.

Sources: From Do Something.org

1 Arete Music Academy. “Statistical benefits of music in education.” Arete Music Academy. Accessed July 17, 2014. .
2 Arete Music Academy. “Statistical benefits of music in education.” Arete Music Academy. Accessed July 17, 2014. .
3 National Center for Education Statistics. “Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, 1999-2000 and 2009-2010.” National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed February 24, 2015. .
4 Arte Music Academy. “Statistical benefits of music in education.” Statistical-Benefits-Of-Music-In-Education. Accessed July 17, 2014.
5 VH1: Save the Music. “The Benefits of Music Education.” VH1: Save the Music. Accessed February 24, 2015. .
6 The National Association for Music Education. “Music Makes the Grade.” The National Association for Music Education. Accessed February 24, 2015.
7 Hille, Katrin, et al. “Associations between music education, intelligence, and spelling ability in elementary school.” Adv Cogn Psychol 7 (2011): 1–6. Web. Accessed February 24, 2015.
8 Baker, Mitzi. “Music moves brain to pay attention, Stanford study finds.” Stanford Medicine. Accessed February 24, 2015.
9 Trei, Lisa. “Musical training helps language processing, studies show.” Stanford News. Accessed February 24, 2015. .
10 National Association for Music Education. “The Benefits of the Study of Music.” National Association for Music Education. Accessed July 17, 2014. .
11 The National Association for Music Education. “Music Makes the Grade.” The National Association for Music Education. Accessed February 24, 2015.

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