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Thoughts on Music Education

Warning! Strong opinions ahead! I believe that music should be taught because, just like math, science, and reading, it’s a part of life. We don’t teach kids math because we expect them to be mathematicians or accountants. The purpose of education in literature is not to create a new generation of authors. If students struggle in these areas, they are provided with extra instruction. When someone doesn’t achieve in music, we chalk it up to lack of talent when, in fact, it may be due to the same reasons they struggle to read or grasp numeric functions.

Despite the common understanding of the conflict between sports and music, our area schools approach music and sports instruction in the same way. In fact, they are grouped together and participants must fill out many of the same permission forms. What this means is that preference is given to the elite musicians and to those that are already seeking to make music their career. It is wonderful to see that there are so many opportunities for these talented youth!

However, I think we are missing a strong a musical middle class as it were. Why is this important? I think some of the biggest consumers of high quality music performance, recordings, instruments, etc. are people who have a decent foundation in music. As a music therapist, I know there are also many extra-musical functions of music instruction that enhance our lives. Like the English language, western classical music is read from top to bottom and left to right. A good musician learns “sight words” in certain chords and patterns. Music and literacy work hand in hand. Rhythms are expressed as mathematical functions. Making music is a great way to meet other people and create lasting friendships.

Music is also a great equalizer. I’ve heard it said that a team is only as strong as its weakest member. I would turn that around and say that group musicianship is synergistic and that it’s the strongest musicians who will determine how much the group can achieve. The great bass player Victor Wooten gave a TED talk on the parallels between music and spoken language. I loved what he said about bringing a non-musician in to play with his group. It was impossible to tell who was the newbie and who were the experienced musicians. Victor said, “Wow! If I use my greatness in the right way, it can help others rise up quickly!” Imagine how much we could accomplish in this world if we used our strengths to lift each other up instead of tear each other down!

trumpet and drum

How can we help lift others? How can we provide musical opportunities for everyone? Let me know your thoughts!

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