2017 October

The Importance of Music Education

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What if there was one activity that could benefit every student in every school across the nation? An activity that could improve grades and scores on standardized testing? An activity that would allow students to form lasting friendships? An activity that would help students become more disciplined and confident?

Fortunately, there is such an activity. Unfortunately, many schools will not make it a part of their curriculum, due to issues of funding and scheduling. This activity is something that everyone is aware of, but not everyone has a chance to participate in. This activity is music.

For years, music classes have been the ugly ducklings of school curriculums—the last courses to be added, the first courses to be cut. They have always taken second place to traditional academic classes. Music, however, has proved itself to be extremely beneficial time and time again, from the undeniable improvement in grades regarding traditional academic classes to the glowing remarks from music students everywhere. In an ever-changing world, the addition of music education in schools needs to be next on the academic agenda.  Music education should be a required component in all schools due to the proven academic, social, and personal benefits that it provides.

According to the No Child Left Behind Act, the following are defined as, “core academic subjects”: English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, the arts [emphasis added], history, and geography (Benefits of the Study 1). Although music, being a part of the arts, is supposedly on the same level as other academic subjects, it is not being treated as such.

Music education greatly enhances students’ understanding and achievement in non-musical subjects. For example, a ten-year study, which tracked over 25,000 middle and high school students, showed that students in music classes receive higher scores on standardized tests than students with little to no musical involvement. The musical students scored, on average, sixty-three points higher on the verbal section and forty-four points higher on the math sections of the SATs than non-music students (Judson). When applying to colleges, these points could be the difference between an acceptance letter and a rejection letter.

Furthermore, certain areas of musical training are tied to specific areas of academics; this concept is called transfer. According to Susan Hallam, “Transfer between tasks is a function of the degree to which the tasks share cognitive processes” (5-6). To put this simply, the more related two subjects are, the more transfer will ensue. This can be evidenced with the correlation between rhythm instruction and spatial-temporal reasoning, which is integral in the acquisition of important math skills. The transfer can be explained by the fact that rhythm training emphasizes proportions, patterns, fractions, and ratios, which are expressed as mathematical relations (Judson). Transfer can be seen in other academic subjects as well. For example, in a 2000 study of 162 sixth graders, Ron Butzlaff concluded that students with two or three years of instrumental music experience had significantly better results on the Stanford Achievement Test (a verbal and reading skills test) than their non-musical counterparts (qtd. in Judson). This experiment demonstrates that music can affect improvement in many different academic subjects. All in all, it can be shown that music education is a worthwhile investment for improving students’ understanding and achievement in academic subjects.

Related to academic achievement is success in the workforce. The Backstreet Boys state that, “Practicing music reinforces teamwork, communication skills, self-discipline, and creativity” (Why Music?). These qualities are all highly sought out in the workplace. Creativity, for example, is, “one of the top-five skills important for success in the workforce,” according to Lichtenberg, Woock, and Wright (Arts Education Partnership 5). Participation in music enhances a student’s creativeness. Willie Jolley, a world-class professional speaker, states that his experience with musical improvisation has benefited him greatly regarding business. Because situations do not always go as planned, one has to improvise, and come up with new strategies (Thiers, et. al). This type of situation can happen in any job; and when it does, creativity is key. Similarly, music strengthens a person’s perseverance and self-esteem—both qualities that are essential in having a successful career (Arts Education Partnership 5). Thus, music education can contribute to students’ future careers and occupational endeavors.

Participation in music also boasts social benefits for students. Music is a way to make friends. Dimitra Kokotsaki and Susan Hallam completed a study dealing with the perceived benefits of music; in their findings they wrote, “Participating in ensembles was also perceived as an opportunity to socialize with like-minded people, make new friends and meet interesting people, who without the musical engagement they would not have had the opportunity to meet” (11). Every time a student is involved in music, they have the chance to meet new people, and form lasting friendships.

Likewise, in a study by Columbia University, it was revealed that students who participate in the arts are often more cooperative with teachers and peers, have more self-confidence, and are better able to express themselves (Judson). Through one activity, a student can reap all of these benefits, as well as numerous others. Moreover, the social benefits of music education can continue throughout a student’s life in ways one would never suspect. An example of this would be that “students who participate in school band or orchestra have the lowest levels of current and lifelong use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs among any other group in our society” (Judson). By just participating in a fun school activity, students can change their lives for the better. Music education can help students on their journey to success.

Chinese philosopher Confucius once stated, “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without” (Arts Education Partnership 1). Music education provides personal benefits to students that enrich their lives. In the study of perceived benefits of music by Dimitra Kokotsaki and Susan Hallam, it was found that “participating in an ensemble enhanced feelings of self-achievement for the study’s participants, assisted individuals in overcoming challenges, built self-confidence, and raised determination to make more effort to meet group expectations regarding standards of playing” (12). In an ensemble, every member is equally important, from the first chair to the last chair. Thus every person must be able to play all of their music and be ready for anything. When one person does not practice their music and comes to rehearsal unprepared, it reflects upon the whole ensemble. Needless to say, no one wants to be that person. So students take it upon themselves to show that they want to be there and come prepared. This type of attitude continues throughout students’ lives.

Furthermore, group participation in music activities can assist in the development of leadership skills (Kokotsaki and Hallam 13). One participant in the perceived benefits of music study stated that, “I have gained confidence in my leadership skills through conducting the Concert Band” (Kokotsaki and Hallam 28). Conducting an ensemble is just one of the many leadership opportunities available to music students.

Music can also be a comforting activity to many students. High school senior and school band member Manna Varghese states that for her, music is a way to relieve stress. When she is angry or frustrated, she likes to play flute or piano to relax. For students, music classes are not necessarily something they participate in for a grade, or to put on a college application. Students participate in music classes because they enjoy them and want to be there.

Even though it has been proven that music education benefits students, many people argue that it still should not be required in schools. They state that with the increasing importance placed on standardized testing, there is not enough class time to include music classes (Abril and Gault 68). However, it has been shown that the time students spend in music classes does not hinder their academic success. A study by Hodges and O’Connell found that “being excused from non-musical classes to attend instrumental lessons does not adversely affect academic performance” (Hallam 14). Thus, in reality, having students enroll in music classes would not be detrimental to their academic performance, and the students would then be able to reap all of the benefits that come with music education. Furthermore, funding for music education is an issue at many schools. The people in charge of determining funding for schools often choose to fund traditional academic classes over arts programs. Paul Harvey states, “Presently, we are spending twenty-nine times more on science than on the arts, and the result so far is worldwide intellectual embarrassment” (Hale 8). Clearly, the current system for the allocation of funds for schools is not adequate. By transferring some of the funding from traditional academic classes to music classes, this embarrassment could be avoided. Evidently, although some may try to argue against it, music education should be required in all schools.

What would life be like without music? Imagine it for a moment. No listening to music on the radio on a long drive. No music to dance to. There would not be any soundtracks in movies, and concerts and musicals would be nonexistent. Eventually, no one would even remember what music is. Many people do not realize it, but music has a bigger effect on their lives than they may think, and they would definitely care if it was to disappear. Without music, life would never be the same. To keep music alive, students must be educated about it in schools. Students will not only get to experience and enjoy what music has to offer, but will reap the innumerable benefits that come with music. Ancient Greek philosopher and teacher Plato said it best: “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to imagination, and life to everything.”

Written by Alexis Kalivretenos, first-prize winner of the 2014 Humanist Essay Contest

Works Consulted

Abril, Carlos A., and Brent M. Gault. “The State of Music in Secondary Schools: The Principal’s Perspective.” Journal of Research in Music Education 56.1 (2008): 68-81. JSTOR. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.

Arts Education Partnership, comp. Music Matters: How Music Education Helps Students Learn, Achieve, and Succeed. Washington D.C.: n.p., 2011. Print.

Hale, Donna Sizemore. “Stay Involved to Protect the Arts.” American String Teacher 63.3 (2013): 8. ProQuest. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.

Hallam, Susan. “The power of music: its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people.” International Journal of Music Education 28.3 (2010): 269-89. Print.

Judson, Ellen. “The Importance of Music.” Music Empowers Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Oct. 2013.

Kokotsaki, Dimitra, and Susan Hallam. “Higher Education music students’ perceptions of the benefits of participative music making.” Music Education Research 9.1 (2007): n. pag. Google Scholar. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.

National Association for Music Education, comp. The Benefits of the Study of Music. N.p.: n.p., 2007. Print.

Thiers, Genevieve, et al. “Music Education and Success…From the Band Room to the Board Room.” Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music. By Craig M. Cortello. N.p.: n.p., n.d. NME.com. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.

Varghese, Manna. Personal interview. 24 Oct. 2013.

Why Music? Prod. NAfME. Radio

Passion Pulse Vol 1 Issue 4

Posted by | Announcements | No Comments

Have you ever been to Hollywood Cemetery here in Richmond? If not then fall is a great time to go visit. Leaves are falling from the trees, covering the ground and the grave sites. And off in the distance there is a huge tree whose leaves are currently half brown, orange and red and half green. It sits in the middle of a field surrounded by tombstones, and when you look at it, you can’t help but think what about what a metaphor it is for the life cycle, for life and death and the space in between. Think about the season we’re about to enter into. One holiday memorializes death, the next one celebrates gratitude for life and the next one, for many people celebrates the gift of the life that led to death and resurrection. So, as we move into fall, as we begin the crazy, beautiful, nostalgic, busy, hopeful, and even sometimes painful holiday season, we just want to say thank you for spending part of your life cycle at Passion Academy. We love to tell people how we are about more than just quality education in the Arts. We are about bringing life and joy and the gift of music and dance to all of our students. We love that you are a part of the vision and a part of our community.

And now, without further adieu here are all the exciting things going on in our world!

Passion Dance FREE Trial Week is going on right now so don’t miss out! It’s our Passion Dance program’s free trial week, where we’re inviting ALL of our students AND GUESTS to try out any dance class they’re interested in for free! The only condition is that you have to register ahead of time. Help spread the word that we have dance classes for both kids AND adults. We offer Tap, Ballet, Contemporary, Hip Hop, Musical Theater, Jazz, as well as a Dance Discovery class for children ages 3-5 and a Creative Movement class for children ages 2-3. If you happened to miss out on the class you wanted to try this week, you’re welcome to register and attend next week!

REGISTER HERE

Halloween is coming, which means another Spooktacular Halloween Party at Passion Academy! This year’s shindig will be on Saturday night, October 28th from 6:00pm to 9:00pm at the West End location. As many of you know, we have just completed a beautiful remodeling of our home base. Come check out how spooktacularly decorated our new digs will be. The festivities will include something for everyone…games, food, candy and of course some spooktacularly scary music for the occasion. This is a family affair too, so bring the family, the neighbor’s family, the neighbor’s cousin’s family…bring the family you like and even the ones you don’t, this is an event for anyone and everyone and a great opportunity to introduce someone to our West End campus. Costumes are encouraged but, as this is a family event, please keep them relatively related to this life and not the next.

RSVP HERE

On the 17th of December from 4:00pm to 6:00pm we are inviting all of you to join us for a very special, one-of-a-kind Winter Showcase. This will be our highlight event of the year. And in lieu of our regularly scheduled programming, we are going to be bringing you a poignant, moving and powerful production, an eye-opening story told through music and dance called “Invincible”. Invincible is the story of a young girl whose strength is put to the test when she is forced to move with her mother away from everything familiar to her. A new school brings pressure to fit in with her peer group, and before long she becomes the victim of bullying. The question is, will she have what it takes to be invincible?

It’s a story about a girl who overcomes her challenges by realizing that she is a beautiful, independent person in her own right. Along the way, she realizes that she doesn’t have to fit the mold of certain groupings, that she can make friends, just by being herself. Her ultimate discovery is that she has a bigger place in the world, and that she can help others who might be having similar struggles. It is a touching story reflecting on the joys of life, overcoming struggles, and inspiring hope.

We want you to come to this event. We want you to tell your friends and family about it, especially people who you know are having a hard time, people who are losing hope. But we also want you to come because, by doing so you will be supporting others who are struggling, through the Passion Arts Foundation. All proceeds from Invincible ticket sales will go towards providing resources for the foundation, so we in turn can offer educational and mentoring opportunities to those who need it most.  Our hope is that this event will move people to action, increasing opportunities for others who are struggling and who need a creative outlet.

EVENT TICKETS SUPPORT THE FOUNDATION

HOLIDAY SCHEDULING

The holidays are here, and, as much as we’d like to think that music lessons and dance classes are the only thing going on in your world, realistically we can see your calendar from here, the one that says, “Thanksgiving at cousin Fred’s in Charlotte, office Christmas party, school Christmas program, church Christmas cantata (accompanied by 5 extra rehearsals), and of course that little trip over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house.” So, in light of the facts, we’re asking that, when you sit down to map out the quickest route from here to Dayton, Ohio, you would just hop on the computer and shoot us an email to status@passionacademy.net to let us know when you’ll be absent during dates when you have regularly scheduled lessons or classes. It really helps us for our planning. But also remember that when we don’t use something we tend to lose it. So shoot for consistency, and if you fall and land at grandma’s house we’ll be there to pick you up in January.

Right now, if you were to sit down and write it out, how busy would you say that you and/or your children are? This is one of the hardest questions to ask ourselves. Why? Because it’s hard to determine how to master the art and at the same time avoid the curse of busyness.

It’s a huge blessing to able to be busy, it means we have life, health, opportunities, dreams, passions and talents, it’s a gift really. It’s also an art form worth learning how to manage. But sometimes, if we’re really being honest, it can become a curse. So, how do I know that the quality of my “yes” is being well-defined by the quantity of my “no”? And, more importantly, how do I help my child make sense of all of the things they could be doing, while making sure they aren’t indeed becoming a jack of all but master of none?

Here are a few easy questions you can ask yourself as a parent or as a student to determine whether you or your child is just too busy?

  • How much are you sleeping? All successful, healthy business people, entrepreneurs, people of influence, etc. will tell you that they work hard and wake up early. But they’ll also tell you that they get a full-night’s sleep every night. And all the major studies will tell you that those extra hours your teen is hibernating are actually critical for their continued emotional, physical and physiological development. Just because they want to act like adults doesn’t mean they’re not still kids.
  • How stressed are you, your kids, or your family? Again, studies show that an enormous amount of the problems we suffer from both physically and mentally, come from stress. We weren’t designed to operate under duress all the time. But so often we do, and most of the time we don’t even realize it because it has become so “normal”. So, be willing to take an honest look at what you or your student is stressed about and why. Simplifying the schedule may be an easy fix.
  • How effective am I being at whatever it is I’m undertaking? Jack of all trades, master of none is certainly a truism worth considering. But let’s take it a step further and suggest that “master of no trades equals the inability to be jack of any”. There is a feeling of satisfaction and healthy pride that comes from knowing and feeling like we accomplished something, like we moved forward, progressed, overcame and achieved. This is extremely hard to do when there are too many things on our plate. Remember, just because something is a good idea, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

How am I or my child doing as a person?  Is your student becoming the fullest, best version of themselves, or a pieced together version of who others would like for them to be? Are YOU becoming the fullest, best version of yourself, or a pieced together version of who others would like for you to be? This can be a hard question to ask now, but it can be even harder to change who we are later.

Our goal is to discover the intersection of our greatest passions and our greatest gifts, not how many things we can accomplish in one lifetime.

6 Reasons Dance Training Makes Us Better Human Beings

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6 Reasons Dance Training Makes Us Better Human Beings
by Steve Zee

Everyone knows that training is the cornerstone of a successful career in dance. But as a dance educator, I also take comfort in the fact that high-quality dance training helps shape students into genuinely good people (in addition to creating future artists, which is a wonderful goal in itself.) These are the lessons dance teaches that help make students into better humans:

Improvement Takes Commitment Over Time

In my tap courses at Cal State University, sometimes students are shocked when they can’t learn something quickly. In today’s world, we’re used to getting fast results. You need an answer—Google it. You need to talk to someone—text them. The cooking channel wants your dinner to be easy, the physical trainer wants your workout to be five minutes, Rosetta Stone can have you speaking Mandarin in an hour.

But dancers know that even when you have aptitude, there’s no substitute for hard work and perseverance. Acquiring any skill of value takes time. It’s the way we learn to dance, to play music, to speak a foreign language, to succeed academically, to change social norms and to break down barriers. We lace up our shoes day after day, week after week, year after year and learn how to dance. Commitment over time is the very antithesis of modern living and is at the core of dance training.

“Failures” Are Opportunities

At the foundation where I work that gives low-cost dance lessons to underserved kids, we do assessments to place students in the appropriate level. Every year we remind the kids that in academic schooling not moving up to the next grade every year is seen as a failure but in the arts, it is normal to stay in a level for multiple years as you perfect your skills. Every year there are kids who don’t move up and are upset. But they soon realize that moving to the next level comes with mastery of a certain set of techniques and mastering those techniques takes hard work.



You Don’t Get Something For Nothing

In dance class you are only entitled to what you earn. And what you earn doesn’t even necessarily have to be perfect dance technique. Some of my favorite students over the years have not been the best tap dancers but they’ve been magnificent students. They show up on time and are prepared, they work hard, they sweat and they persevere. Maybe they don’t become the most skilled dancer in the room, but they often reap the most benefits. And here is the beautiful part: those kids have worked hard exactly because they don’t have a feeling of entitlement.

We Are Accountable to Ourselves and Each Other

At the foundation where I teach we have a very strict wardrobe policy. Any student not properly dressed sits and observes class that day. It may seem overly harsh, but there’s wisdom behind it. There might be a time that a dancer or their family forgets the uniform, but it doesn’t happen again. Over time, as the dancer matures, they learn to be responsible without the parents being involved, and you no longer hear “My mom forgot my shoes.”

Dancers also become responsible for learning the material. They learn that the teacher is not a puppet master who can make a body do the correct thing; it is up to the student to learn the material. They learn that they are responsible to the rest of the class, and that being absent lets down their classmates because other dancers can’t get in a good practice without everyone in the room. Missing class, coming to class unprepared or not focusing on executing the steps properly, they learn, affects everyone else.

Cutting Corners Isn’t An Option

My younger students will invariably ask me when they can move to the next level and my answer is very frustrating to them, I’m sure. I say that there is really only one level: beginning. If everything goes well in the beginning, improvement will flow. If any corners are cut, it will be hard to become advanced. I distill advanced steps down to the same words I use for a person’s first tap lesson. Anyone with an aptitude for dance who excelled a little too quickly will tell you that they eventually go back to fill in the gaps.

What Other People Think Doesn’t Matter

In a world that is so concerned about appearances, dance teaches you that what others think is not the most important thing. I try to explain to my young students that they can’t let their experiences get derailed by what they think someone else may be thinking. If they stand front and center in class and make a mistake, what does it matter what another student thinks? Stand in front, get that correction, improve because you want to and let someone else’s view be damned. Let those too lethargic to meet their potential stand in the back and watch you strive to be better. If you can’t do it today, there is always next class and you are already on the way because you have begun.

Originally posted on Dancemagzine.com