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Sing out! The value of music education

Sing out! The value of music education

I will never forget the look on the boy’s face. A teacher standing directly in front of him turns to me and proclaims “Oh this one can’t sing,” waving her hand in his direction. He was crushed. I was livid.

The boy probably never sang again. People who say they can’t and won’t sing invariably had a teacher telling them early on they couldn’t.

And this is unforgiveable. These thoughtless individuals have robbed so many people of their birthright: the pleasure of making music. Everyone can sing â€" it is a part of being human. That is no t to say that everyone should try to fill Carnegie Hall. But there is an intrinsic joy in singing, in making music from within you, which has nothing to do with the external quality of the sound.

Everyone connects with some type of music. Personally, I could not survive a day without it. When I have a cold and cannot sing, it’s like a piece of me is missing. Music is the backdrop and invisible thread that holds my life together. Keeping music and the arts alive is deeply personal to me.

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President Trump has called for the elimination of federal funding for government arts programs, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The NEA provides grants for arts education and enrichment programs across the country. Wisely, with bipartisan support, Congress rejected Trump’s proposed cuts last year and again this year, even slightly increasing arts funding for fiscal year 2019.

The power of music is profound. It is integral to all cultures throughout time. We are hard-wired to respond to music. Just listening to music activates wide networks in the brain, including areas responsible for motor actions, emotions, and creativity.

Engaging in musical activities reaps benefits throughout life. Young children show improved language development. Music supports brain health as we age. And music can reach Alzheimer’s patients when nothing else can.

To keep music alive, students need to be educated about it in school. The benefits include:

  • Facilitating learning other subjects and enhancing skills used in other areas, incl uding improving memory. (Musicians’ brains are bigger, better connected and more sensitive than non-musicians.)
  • Improving test scores. (In one study, children taught music scored 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math on standardized tests.)
  • Enhancing creativity.
  • Fostering teamwork, communication skills, leadership abilities and self-esteem. There is a particular richness in making music with others.

Looking ahead? Joseph M. Calahan, director of corporate communications at Xerox Corporation: “Arts education aids students in skills needed in the workplace: flexibility, the ability to solve problems and communicate, the ability to learn new skills, to be creative and innovative, and to strive for excellence.”

More good reasons? The arts contribute more than $760 billion dollars annually to the U.S. economy. They employ 4.9 million workers earning more than $370 billion.

Those who would eliminate the NEA argue that the arts should be financed privately. The role of the federal government cannot be resolved here. But philanthropic giving is geographically disproportionate, so a solely private funding model would leave many American communities behind. Note that the NEA receives only about 0.004 percent of the total federal budget, less than 1/2 of one hundredth of 1 percent: a miniscule price for something that adds such richness to our lives.

The NEA is criticized as being for the liberal elite. Not so. For example, 40 percent of NEA-supported activities take place in high-poverty neighborhoods. The NEA also has been criticized for certain art projects it has subsidized. But this is a matter of taste, and protected by the First Amendment. (Nobody has to look at or listen to anything they don’t want to.)

I was delighted to see Gov. Inslee proclaim May 2018 “Arts Education Month,” affirming the arts as an essential element of a complete and balanced education. It acknowledges the numerous skills enabled by learning in and through the arts, including critical thinking and problem solving, and imagination and creativity.

Simply put, the arts help make us better human beings. And the intrinsic joy of making and listening to music? Priceless.

Lynne Geller is a journalist, educator, and member of the 2018 Board of Contributors. Reach her via email at

Source: Google News Music

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