Yesterday morning I had the pleasure to attend an event at Norman Binkley Elementary school with VH1 Save The Music Foundation, Energizer and country singer Jimmy Wayne. This event was part of VH1 Save The Music and Energizer’s “Positive Energy” campaign, where the two partnered together to give musical instruments to select schools throughout the nation. Now, if you know anything about the Save The Music Foundation, then you know that this is their mission and goal, that they are an “organization dedicated to restoring instrumental music education in America’s public schools, and raising awareness about the importance of music as part of each child’s complete education.” (STM.com).
Now, as you might know, I had the privileged to intern with STM this summer in Manhattan. In my “About” section, I go-on about this probably a bit more than I should. But, it’s with good reason. It was truly life changing and eye-opening for me. It not only opened doors and windows and all these other outlets for me, and showed me ways I could use what I was learning in the class room, or how happy I could be with a future profession, but I was also working for something I felt passionate about — music education…
I’ve never been much musically inclined. I was in choir in high school, liturgical ensemble, I even took voice lessons for 2 years. Mind you, though, I still just wasn’t very good. I was in about 6 or so musical theater productions, and I was even on the color guard of my high school marching band (even became color guard captain and marching band president!). I so badly wanted to be good at music, and though I knew I wasn’t, I still surrounded myself with it. One of my favorite classes was my senior year in high school when I took Music Appreciation, taught by my band director.
Throughout high school, it was obvious that music became a passion of mine. Not playing it, but being able to enjoy it and reap the benefits of it and its education. It opened my eyes to the world, it made days seem brighter, the air smell cleaner, it made me feel happier, and it just made life better. Music slowly became a part of me. But it was something that I didn’t think I’d be able to bring with me to my future due to the fact that I’m not very musically inclined, and I tried the whole Music Business major (hello, I DO go to Belmont!), but I’m just not that much into business and economics and accounting. With PR as my major, though, it really made me realize I could do something with music. I could go into the entertainment industry, I could be around artists and musicians on a regular basis. But, I was just never satisfied with this.
I’ve digressed, I apologize. It happens.
Interning with STM this summer really opened to my eyes to the ways my passions and my talents can align, but it also showed me — reminded me, rather — how vital music education is. I was able to see students from the NY/Tri-State area who were given a voice, given a purpose, because of music being put in their school because of the STM Foundation. And yesterday, I was able to see more of these children — FOURTH graders! — who were so happy to be around music, to be in a class that mattered to them, to have something to look forward to, to have this given to them by a foundation and a company who realize the importance of the arts and the role it plays in shaping a young person’s mind.
I had the privileged yesterday of speaking to a young man, around my age, who benefited from a STM keyboard lab in ’97, who actually had the teacher the keyboard lab was given to at Norman Binkley. And, this young man, he went on to study music in college at Middle Tennessee State University with an emphasis in vocal performance. I was able to see him play keyboard, to sing and to talk about how important music was in his life. How music gave him purpose, gave him reason, and how it became what he does and what he lives for. He told me about the United States is the only nation to not hold and regard music and the arts as a vital role and staple in curriculum across the nation. He was saying to me how it’s crazy to think about how officials are pulling the arts out of school, when music classes for some children are all they have to look forward to in school. For those children, without music, there is no excitement in school. Music class was always something to look forward to during the day, something exciting, something new, something adventurous. When that’s pulled out of the schools, children have nothing to grab on to, to hold on to, to keep them focused and keep them driven, to keep them going. This is when children become bored and uninterested. Despite that there is a direct correlation between boosting test scores, critical thinking, and other thinking and learning concepts, and the fact that children who take part in music education have the lowest rate of substance users, and despite the fact that it is proven that those who study music do better in school and in life after school, disregarding the fact that those who take part in music become more empowered and confident, regardless that those who play and study music are overall happier, music classes are a way of turning a rather mundane and monotonous day at school into something exciting.
I also was able to hear country singer Jimmy Wayne talk about the power of music in his life. He was abused as a child, a homeless teen, and in and out of foster care. Music gave him a voice and an outlet for all that he went through. Music was a way that he was able to turn a dark, terrible, bad thing into a bright beautiful object. Something that not only he could hold on to, but something he could share with others to hold on to.
After this morning at this school, I went about the rest of my day, went to my classes, and just really thought about all that had happened. Then, last night, I was so excited because my favorite TV show was premiering its new season — GLEE.
I couldn’t help but think during this show about all the younger students out there who are dying to be like them, who are waiting for a chance to have music in their schools, and all the music programs that are fighting the “big man” to stay open, just like they are in Glee. I thought about all the children who aren’t being given that opportunity to explore music, to be given that opportunity, because they are being deprived of music programs. I thought about all the children in our nation that are never going to know what it feels like to perform on stage, to perform a concert, to perform on a band field with live music behind you, to sing for someone, to play an instrument, to be given that voice, that outlet, to know what it feels like to turn emotion into song, to know how it feels to turn something dark into something beautiful. How these children will never reap the benefits of music education that I was as fortunate to find, or the children and cast of Glee are able to portray, or the children at Norman Binkley are able to participate in because of these gracious sponsors.
Music Education not only matters because it provides children with the ability to think better, or score better on tests, but it is proven that it makes them an overall better person. The children in our schools today are the future leaders of our world tomorrow. If these children are never exposed to music education, and never know what it is like to produce something truly unique and special, to never know the feeling of a song sung or played on your own accord, to never know how it feels to learn a new instrument, to never know what it feels like to become one with music, then we are only depriving them of the chance to become the best person that they possible can be.