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As parents, we recognize the value of steady and consistent progression in math or English. So why not have the same expectations for music? A child who learns to keep a steady beat on a hand drum in first grade could be playing complex classical works nine years later in high school.
Studies at Harvard University show that students with three or more years of musical study outperform their nonmusical peers in a wide range of cognitive areas. If music education benefits our children’s overall achievement, doesn’t this suggest our children should be doing more musically in school than singing carols in the holiday concert?
A high-quality music education program includes a comprehensive, sequential curriculum guided by academic content standards. Set by state education departments and the local school board the curriculum provides adequate instructional time and resources, is taught by a qualified music teacher, and tracks both student achievement and teacher success. These programs not only help students learn musical concepts, but they also instill confidence and discipline, teach teamwork and risk taking, improve aural and visual acuity, and improve verbal and cognitive processing.
Get on the Band Wagon
How can you effectively advocate for high-quality music education in schools? And how can you help your local school music teacher build a great music program?
Start by letting your school music teacher know that you appreciate what they already do to bring music to students. Tell them you understand the value of music education to the overall quality of a child’s education. Communicate that you are ready to help improve music education in any way that you can. Ask them what you can do to help. Just be combining forces with arts teachers, you can be more effective than approaching administrators or school boards alone.
Real Action Steps
Next, become informed about the current status of your school’s program. Ask questions aimed at understanding the goals of the school’s existing curriculum. Are students receiving music instruction based on state standards that define what children should know and be able to do at each grade level? How many hours or days a weekdo children receive music instruction? Ask the music teacher or principal about the adequacy of time and resources compared to state expectations of what must be taught.
Then, talk to the music teacher about current support for the music program. Do the music teachers have up-to-date music textbooks, classroom musical instruments, and CDs of music from cultures around the world? The school budget alone probably doesn’t provide all the funding necessary to adequately support the school music program. Learn how your local school system works and whether resources are distributed equitably to the music program compared to other state-mandated curriculum. And even become a participant in fundraising efforts to enhance school music opportunities.
Make Noise Outside the Classroom
A high-quality music program should include experiences with musicians and community music organizations. Do students participate in activities such as a yearly field trip to an orchestra hall for a symphony concert? Many arts organizations bring professional musicians and ensembles into schools to present performances, classroom visits, and workshops. And some offer professional development opportunities for teachers as well as opportunities for students to participate in youth orchestras and children’s choruses outside the school.
Make a strong connection with your school music teacher by sharing your commitment to ensure the quality of music education. Show your appreciation of the work already being done. Stay in touch and keep an open line of communication so you can respond to needs that may come up during the year. And look for new opportunities to support the music program and become an advocate for music education.