Sunday, March 4, 2007

Music in the Schools

March is Music in the Schools month, a great month full of school band and choral concerts and performances, my favorite being All Band Night, which takes place in the high school gym. The bands are arranged by grade level, the fifth and sixth grade bands take up half the gym; the junior high and high school bands take up the other half (unfortunately silently pointing out the high band drop-out rate). The jazz bands for each grade level take turns playing in the center of the gym.

As the bands play, starting with the youngest, and continuing to the most accomplished, the high school jazz band, you can hear dramatic improvements in musical performance, and it is inspiring, especially to those in the audience who also play instruments. Members of my flute choir used to sit together and watch our kids and grandkids play, marveling at their virtuosity. I went to these concerts for 9 years, starting when my son started saxophone and band in 4th grade, and ending when he led the award-winning high school jazz band, a couple of years ago.

The school system promotes All Band Night, All Choral Night, and other events, claiming that students who learn to play a musical instrument will do better in their academic work, some variant of the Mozart effect. I know this is a plea for better funding of music education in the schools, but I think the connection is unproven and unnecessary.

Why can't we study music because the study of music is rewarding in itself? We study calculus, chemistry, and Cro-magnon man in school, most of us forgetting most of what we learn. But music is a significant part of everyday life, whether we are practicing, listening to a performance, or connected to an iPod. Music is not a career for the timid, but it has such extraordinary power to move us emotionally and is such a wonderful avocation. Let’s study music and art, not because they will improve our grades, but because they bring us joy, challenge, purpose, both as children and as adults.

No comments: