Floyd Dryden Middle School Orchesta

My cousin is a middle school teacher and the orchestra at her school in Alaska is competing for money to buy instruments and music.  When I checked my email this evening, there was a link to a video her school orchestra entered into a music scholarship contest to win money for instruments and music.    I watched the video, memories of my own middle-school and music years flashed before my eyes.  Not all of it was pretty.

Members of the Eckstein Middle School Jazz Ban...

Members of the Eckstein Middle School Jazz Band (and others) at the launch of “Seattle, City of Music”, Paramount Theater, Seattle, Washington. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being a band or orchestra member when I was in Middle School meant certain tagging as a nerd; unless you were cool enough to be a percussionist or accepted into the percussionists clique. Alas, my sister hung with the drummers while I pinned away from unrequited whatever.  But that’s another story.

These kids and their teacher made a video for the whole world to see.  They declared themselves and declared themselves to the whole Internet.  I like that.  It helps me to think back with a little more kindness on the 7th grader I was.  I liked playing the flute and the accordion.  Yes,  the accordion.  I liked going to my cousin Nancy’s concerts.  I liked marching band.

Marching Band

Marching Band (Photo credit: TPapi)

What inspires me about these kids is their obvious desire to play music and to tell the whole world through an improbable but not impossible maybe-future-viral video seen by millions nerdy or not, whatever they are is just fine with them:  there’s no hiding and no getting around who they are and what they do.

I’m willing to be they’re having fun.

Music matters in education and not just because a school needs evening events for parents and grandparents to gush over — while the other siblings kick their heels against the cold metal chairs of the auditorium.   No, music matters because today’s research tells us that the successful leaders and entrepreneurs of the future will need to use both art and science to navigate the problems of the future.  Adding music and art to science and math curriculums actually improves science and math proficiency.

A January, 2009 article in Edutopia explores just how art and music are affecting education outcomes:

  • Arts in the schools increase test scores and lower dropout rates.
  • Children who participate in the arts are:
    • 4 times more likely to have been recognized for academic achievement
    • 3 times as often elected to class office
    • 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair
    • 3 times more likely win an award for school attendance
  • Longitudinal data of 25,000 students demonstrate that involvement in the arts is linked to:
    • Higher academic performance
    • Increased standardized test scores
    • More community service
    • Lower dropout rates
  • Research shows that students at risk of not successfully completing their high school educations cite their participation in the arts as a reason for staying in school.
  • Low-income students with intensive arts experiences in high school were 3 times more likely than students who lacked to earn a bachelor’s degree. They also were more likely to earn “mostly A’s” in college.

Yet surprisingly, arts funding is one of the first line items to get whacked in school budget discussions.  It’s an easy win for the P&L, but not a win for students.

Watch the contest video and think about the amazing power of arts in eduction.

Related articles


(1) Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who’s Doing It Best Art and music are key to student development. BY FRAN SMITH http://www.edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development

(2) Arts and Schools Together research document http://schoolsartstogether.com/documents/WhyArtsEducationMatters.pdf 

 Photo Credits: 

Featured Image:  Study of a three-quarter size cello. Photo by Michael Maggs via Wikipedia Commons



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