It is a universal truth, well known, that when budget cuts are imposed by the state, teachers of the arts are the first to go. I recently met with a leader of the arts community in Houston who told me that she wanted to make a gift of art supplies but could not few elementary schools with art teachers.
Some advocates for the arts–music education, especially, claim that the study of music increases test scores.
There so many important reasons to treasure music, and the pursuit of higher test scores is not one of them.
“Music is universal. It’s a gabillion dollar industry, and it is omnipresent. How many hours in a row do you ever go without listening to music? Everywhere you go, everything you watch– music. Always music. We are surrounded in it, bathe in it, soak in it. Why would we not want to know more about something constantly present in our lives? Would you want to live in a world without music? Then why would you want to have a school without music?
Listening to music is profoundly human. It lets us touch and understand some of our most complicated feelings. It helps us know who we are, what we want, how to be ourselves in the world. And because we live in an age of vast musical riches from both past and present, we all have access to exactly the music that suits our personality and mood. Music makes the fingers we can use to reach into our own hearts.
Making music is even more so. With all that music can do just for us as listeners, why would we not want to unlock the secrets of expressing ourselves through it? We human beings are driven to make music as surely as we are driven to speak, to touch, to come closer to other humans. Why would we not want to give students the chance to learn how to express themselves in this manner?….
“In music, everyone’s a winner. In sports, when two teams try their hardest and give everything they’ve got, there’s just one winner. When a group of bands or choirs give their all, everybody wins. Regrettably, the growth of musical “competitions” has led to many programs that have forgotten this — but music is the opposite of a zero-sum game. The better some folks do, the better everybody does. In music, you can pursue excellence and awesomeness without having to worry that you might get beat or defeated or humiliated. Everybody can be awesome….
“Do not defend a music program because it’s good for other things. That’s like defending kissing because it gives you stronger lip muscles for eating soup neatly. Defend it because music is awesome in ways that no other field is awesome. Defend it because it is music, and that’s all the reason it needs. As Emerson wrote, “Beauty is its own excuse for being.” A school without music is less whole, less human, less valuable, less complete. Stand up for music as itself, and stop making excuses.”