With budget cuts, a changing curriculum and myriad other factors playing into the modern school day, it may come as no surprise that courses in music, art, vocational trades and more are often on the chopping block, considered as electives that are not paramount to student success.
As musicians and music lovers ourselves, we understand this to be fundamentally wrong. Rather, music education extends outside of the classroom and can positively affect lives long after the school bell rings and it’s time for dismissal. Even if your child isn’t the next Sting or has zero interest in pursuing music as a hobby or career, there are reasons why attendance in these courses should be required, considered just as vital to a well-rounded education as math, science or reading. Let’s take a look at a few top reasons why.
1. Students aren’t just learning music.
Sure, they’re learning how to read notes and play an instrument. Yet, when students take a music class, they’re absorbing so much more. There are scores of studies that have found that the study of music simultaneously ignites other areas of our mind. Why? The act of listening to, understanding and physically playing music requires that students tap into multiple senses at the same time, helping to form those valuable cognitive connections that are also used in more formal areas of learning.
Especially in an era defined by smartphones, video games and other digital technologies, allowing students to engage their listening skills, small muscle memory, observation techniques and more is a great way to add stimulation and engagement away from the ever-present screen, while helping them hone lifelong skill sets they’ll call upon as they continue their education for years to come.
2. It provides a community.
Ask a student who just finished playing an orchestral piece if the process was rewarding, and chances are, you’ll be met with an enthusiastic “yes!” Why? When we learn to play music, we’re rarely doing it alone. Rather, we’re learning alongside our peers and practicing in a group setting. This gives students a community to plug into and allows them to meet and interact with people they might not have on a normal basis.
This is one of the reasons why music education is so important in schools with high dropout rates. If we can reach on-the-fence students through music education and encourage them to express themselves through this venue, that risk can be reduced. It might sound like a pipe dream, but research reveals that the most promising and successful programs designed to reduce the number of school dropouts are those that are centered on improving student involvement and engagement. Music is a critical way to achieve this.
3. It encourages pride in one’s work.
There is an instant gratification to creating music. We work hard, learn a piece, and can quickly tell whether or not we have it down or need a little more work. As such, when students take a music class, they can reap the benefits of their hard work as soon as they sharpen their skills. This can help them establish a sense of pride in their work, and encourage them to keep at it.
One of the most rewarding things about music is that even if we don’t get the hang of it right away, we can keep practicing and learning until we become better at it. Learning how to practice is a learning skill that students can take with them into their other courses as well. They may also choose to pursue specialized music lessons outside of the classroom to help them become the best they can be. From jazz improvisation to piano, the options are wide and varied and the possibilities are endless.
Music educators realize this and are on hand to help each student become the best that he or she can be, and this encouragement can result in the type of pride that can totally transform a middle or high school experience.
4. Music helps us process emotion.
Let’s face it. Adolescence can be a tricky time in one’s life. There are tons of changes, from our hormones to our physical shape, and dealing with it all can be overwhelming. If there were ever a period of time when students need an outlet the most, it’s those critical years. While some might seek solace or escape through alcohol or drugs, music is a healthy and creative way for them to tap into their feelings and release any frustrations or tensions they have lying under the surface.
Bottling up those reactions can be detrimental to our health. It can also lead to long-term emotional or social hindrances. As such, if students understand early on that music is an ideal way to escape for a moment and create something beautiful, they’re more likely to turn to it as an adult as opposed to more unhealthy coping mechanisms.
5. It is a lesson in discipline.
Music mastery doesn’t happen overnight. It requires practice, time and dedication. As they strive to learn a piece of music, try a new instrument or make a particular seat in the band, students learn the importance of scholarly discipline. They have to set aside time every day and work on it.
This is another area that, once honed, can mean major benefits in other areas of scholarly pursuit. Students who know how to apply themselves in the music room also understand how to study, practice and dedicate themselves to the rest of their studies.
Ultimately, while music education can be seen as a secondary pursuit in some schools, it’s equally important as any other core subject and here is the bottom line why: The lessons learned inside the music room are directly applicable to the rest of education. From discipline to pride in one’s work to skill set refinery, students stand to gain a ton when they sign up for a course. The music they learn to create and share is just icing on the cake.