Music Education

Music helping Bealeton woman beat depression

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By Cassandra Brown
Staff Journalist at Faquier Now

After 10 years of chronic depression, the Bealeton resident has found renewed hope through music and faith.

Virginia Ventura travels 90 minutes each week from her home to Richmond to pursue her dream of playing music.

A paraplegic since age 6 because of Transverse Myelitis, Ms. Ventura has suffered from severe depression since middle school.

Transverse Myelitis “was pretty much an overnight thing,” said Ms. Ventura, 25. “I went to sleep and I woke up and couldn’t move my legs.

“I remember my parents crying all the time when this happened. You don’t get it when you’re 6, and you don’t think this is going to change your life,” she said. “I guess it wasn’t until my teenage years when it affected me more.”

Before her depression, Ms. Ventura played viola for two years in school and took piano lessons.

“When I picked up an instrument, it felt natural to me,” she said. “It’s something that never left my mind. I remember how proud and happy I would feel playing.”

Through a one-year music scholarship from Passion Arts Foundation near Richmond, Ms. Ventura can pursue music again.

Last year she started to make progress in overcoming depression.

“When I was at my lowest, I opened my heart to God, and it’s gotten better,” she said.

“My depression stole a lot of being a kid,” Ms. Ventura explained. “Now I have this mindset of do what makes you happy. Picking up the violin was definitely on the top of that list.”

Determined, Ms. Ventura turned to the Internet and searched for a studio where she could rekindle her love of music.

In July she found Passion Academy in Henrico County and decided to email the staff about possible scholarships.

“I honestly wasn’t expecting a response. But, I said a little prayer to God before I sent the email,” Ms. Ventura said.

A few days later she heard from Passion Academy Founder and President Derek Smith, who had chosen her as the foundation’s first scholarship recipient.

“I would say the main reason we decided is because she has overcome a lot of pain in her life,” Mr. Smith said. “This is a perfect example of what we want to do for other people.”

Unable to work because of a recent illness, Ms. Ventura received $2,000 worth of music lessons and a violin from the nonprofit foundation.

The Passion Arts Foundation, founded about six months ago, hopes to give out about 10 scholarships a year, funded with donations and the proceeds from benefit concerts.

Over the next year, she will learn to play the violin, drums, piano, electric guitar and how to produce music. Lessons take place on Mondays for about 90 minutes.

“It makes me feel like I have some sort of purpose,” she said. “Thanks to Passion Academy, it will allow me to live my dreams.

“It’s very calming and peaceful. It gets my mind off things.”

With newfound determination and hope, Ms. Ventura plans to enter the 2018 Ms. Wheelchair Virginia pageant and raise enough money through a GoFundMe page to purchase a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

“I think that’s another cause for my depression is being held down by other people’s schedules or staying home because it’s too difficult to go out,” she said. “Me getting a car, I see that as being another catalyst. It’s going to open so many other opportunities for me.”

One day she hopes to compete in the Paralympic Games.

Ms. Ventura strives to inspire others with depression to pursue their passions and dreams.

“I feel like a lot of people get so caught up in jobs that they forget to work on themselves, on their hearts,” Ms. Ventura said. “If you have a passion, just don’t put excuses up. Go ahead and do it. The reward is going to be so much better than the risk you think will happen.”

Click below to watch interview with Virginia Ventura.

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 3

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Hey Passion Family! Well, the rumors are true…summer is officially over! How do we know? Because Labor Day has come and gone, students are returning from Grandma’s house, and the back-to-school shelves are looking quite bare. But mostly we know because the stores are not so subtly serving up pumpkin egg nog! If the egg nog is out, then summer must definitely be over! So, time to gear up and get ready to “fall” in love with everything going on in September at Passion Academy.

West End Construction Complete

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day…but that was Rome. And, while our West End Remodeling Project wasn’t completed in a day, a LOT was accomplished in a very short amount of time. And now, just in time to enter the fall season, and right on schedule, we are happy to announce that Phase 3, the construction of our new dance studio in the former Band Development studio is complete! A big thank you to Daniel and Derek for all of your hard work, and a big thank you to all of you for your patience during the transition. Passion Academy has been through quite an impressive transformation.


Passion Arts Foundation Annual Benefit Concert a Huge Success


A huge thank you to all who participated in our first annual Passion Arts Foundation Benefit Concert! The event was a great success in so many ways. Our partnership with Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwiches was a hit, selling out all the goods, there was a tremendous turnout estimated around 100 people, and in true Passion Academy form the performances were top notch. There is even word on the street that a new hit group called “Daniel and Son” performed. But the best part about the event was being able to raise money for what is probably the most meaningful part of Passion Academy, our Passion Arts Foundation.


We are happy to report that Virginia Ventura, a very deserving student who we highlighted in last month’s Pulse, was able to benefit directly from the Foundation, and from the concert. Virginia received a fully refurbished violin and began violin lesson two weeks ago! What an opportunity for her and for us. Once again, a big thank you to all of you who came out to make this possible. Please continue to support and champion our Passion Arts Foundation. We truly believe that the work we are trying to do through it speaks volumes about who we are at Passion and who we want to be.


The Art of Worship

Did you know that Passion Academy has a Worship Leader Development program? It’s called The Art of Worship and we hope you’ll take a minute to check it out.

The program was developed by our worship leader mentor Randall Goulard out of something that has been a huge part of the core vision of Passion Academy since the beginning: a desire to serve churches by helping them grow and thrive in the areas of worship and the creative arts. The Art of Worship includes not only individual one-on-one worship leader mentoring, but also sound engineering consultation for churches and overall worship program consultation. The sky really is the limit in terms of how we want to help churches and their worship programs be everything God intends for them to me. So if you know of churches, worship leaders, pastors, or if you are connected to anyone that might be interested in letting us help them, please let us know or direct them to our website. Help us get the word out!

The Music Parents’ Guide by Anthony Mazzochi

Did you know that students who take a break from playing and practicing over the summer is a major reason why they don’t continue with their instruments? You didn’t? Well, now that we have half of you feeling guilty, let us reassure you that’s not the only reason students stop playing or get discouraged. Anthony Mazzochi lays out a number of reasons why it can be difficult for you or your student to stick with an instrument long enough to see real results. Here are some other common factors:

  • Parents don’t see music as a core subject. Music has to be made a priority in order to see success. We don’t usually think about quitting English or Math, because it’s seen as too important. Parents who see music the same way, as a core subject will see their students quit less often.
  • Students don’t know how to get better. Without the proper tools and practice habits to get better at anything, students will become frustrated and want to quit. When parents are invested in learning enough about music to help their child succeed they can help support them at home.
  • Parents and students think they aren’t musically talented. Natural musical talent is often misunderstood. As long as students know how to practice and do so regularly, they WILL get better.
  • The instrument is in disrepair. Students, parents and teachers need to be aware of the basics of instrument maintenance and be on top of repairs when needed so that the student isn’t mistaking a broken valve or reed for a wrong note.
  • Other activities are pulling the child. Life is all about priorities right. Especially as fall begins to ramp up, it is really important for parents and students both to be thinking about what they want to be involved in, and what they should be involved in. The old adage, “jack of all trades, master of none” is only too true when it comes to extracurricular activities. Also remember that the “quality of your “yes” is defined by the quantity of your “no’s”.
Lastly, voting is now open for Family Favorites presented by Style Weekly! It would mean so much to us if you would take a moment to vote for Passion Academy in the Activities categories: Favorite Music Lessons, Dance Lessons and Performing Arts Lessons. Thank you for your support!

VOTE HERE

10 Reasons to Thank Your Music Teacher

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Many people making a living from music, or even those who carry it on as a hobby, will be able to remember being heavily influenced or inspired by a music teacher. Whether it was at school or as a private tutor, they are often responsible for that initial bit of encouragement that makes young people realize that music can be much more than something to be enjoyed in your spare time.

Even if it doesn’t ultimately result in a professional career, engagement with music is increasingly being recognized as a great benefit for us all in many ways. This has produced a growing number of efforts to draw attention to the importance of music education in schools and in the community.

Music Monday is an annual event held in Canada on the first Monday of May. Organized by the Coalition for Music Education since 2005, it brings together school children and their teachers, community groups, music ensembles and work colleagues to highlight the benefits of a musical education. The day involves a mass concert where groups across the country come together at the same time to play a song which has been chosen as the anthem for the year.

Another major part of the day is to highlight the hard work put in by music teachers. A couple of years ago, CBC asked several leading musicians to write letters of thanks to their most influential music teacher to recognize the role they had played in their life and education. The letters described teachers who had run numerous bands and musical ensembles at high schools, organized trips to competitions in other cities, and inspired the creativity of their pupils.

In one of the letters, jazz pianist Oliver Jones writes about the huge impact his piano lessons with Daisy Peterson-Sweeney, the sister of famous jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, had on him: “All of my musical life I have considered myself to be very fortunate to have been surrounded by wonderful and talented people, those who have guided me, inspired me, and most of all those who have motivated me as a youngster. It is rare to find all of these qualities in one person.”

Even for those of us who don’t quite manage to make a professional career out of musical performing, there are no shortage of things that we can take from our school music lessons and the teachers who delivered them. Here are ten things music teachers should be thanked for.

1. They taught you that it’s OK to make mistakes, and making them is how we learn and grow as a person. That’s something useful for life in general, not just music.

2. They taught you to believe in your abilities and stay calm under pressure. Again, not bad qualities to have regardless of what you’re doing.

3. They encouraged you to do your best and push your limits.

4. They destroyed the “practice makes perfect” cliche. In reality, a copious amount of practice is not enough to become a great musician. You always need to find a way to make yourself inspired.

5. They show tremendous dedication, including by taking after school lessons, running school orchestras and clubs, and planning activities. A lot of this additional commitment is never recognized in a teacher’s working hours or salary.

6. They made mathematics easier to understand. After all, its simpler to grasp the concept of two quarter notes fitting in to a half than trying to stare at a badly drawn diagram on a blackboard.

7. They pushed you to take responsibility for your actions, by practicing for your weekly piano lessons or remembering to bring your violin to school.

8. They opened the doors to something which has been shown to stimulate the entire brain. As noted in a recent article, a vast quantity of scientific research has proven the positive effects of music in many areas.

9. They stressed the importance of always looking for ways to improve. Whether or not you’re still playing piano today, a healthy dose of self-criticism can only be a good thing.

Original article on CMUSE 4/21/2015