The Case for Keeping Music in Our Schools Written By Eli Kogan

There is an ongoing debate across the U.S., including right here in Westport, whether music education in Middle School and Elementary School is a worthwhile investment of resources for students. While fifty percent of 6th and 8th graders at Coleytown Middle School think that taking a music class in school does not benefit students academically, studies show that it does.

With resources constrained by yawning budget deficits at the federal, state and local levels, renewed attention has been drawn to how best to distribute shrinking resources. Music programs are in the budget cut crosshairs.

So, the question is whether today, should school systems be required to invest in, and students should be required to take, musically correlated classes.

According to the National Association for Music Education, “Nearly everyone enjoys music, whether by listening to it, singing, or playing an instrument. But despite this almost universal interest, many schools are having to do away with their music education programs. This is a mistake, with schools losing not only an enjoyable subject, but a subject that can enrich students’ lives and education.”

Fifty percent of students quit their musically correlated class one or two years into playing it. This is obviously a mistake.

Some of the main reasons students quit are that they do not think they are musically talented, are too busy with other activities, they hate practicing, their parent is too tired of forcing them to practice, or the student simply does not like their teacher.

Alexis Kalivretenos explains, “For years, music classes have been the ugly ducklings of school curriculum—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.”

To many people’s surprise, taking a musically correlated class strengthens a student’s IQ, and enhances their academic performance. It is now proven that there is a direct correspondence between work in music and verbal competency, motor and auditory skills, the ability to reason and problem solving - key factors that helps transform a child into an adult.

“I know for a fact that being involved in music classes in and out of school affects my attitude and my academic capabilities. I believe it also enhances my ability to persevere and focus."-Sam Powell, eighth grader at coleytown middle school

Of the ninety percent of students who take a musically correlated class in Coleytown Middle School, eighty percent of them find it easy to focus during academic classes. You can conclude that taking a musically correlated class partially refines an adolescent’s ability to focus in classes.

This helps in many other aspects of the classroom. If students focus well, they take better notes, ask better and more creative questions and have more discipline in their classes. So when schools offers high level and rigorous music programs, teachers from music classes and academic classes are all teaching at a high level, and students who take music classes focus on the high level material in their academic classes.

When encouraged by parents, peers or teachers, adolescents involved in a musically correlated class build pride and confidence. It also teaches students to be brave and courageous as they learn to conquer their nerves before playing a song or piece.

Eighty-nine percent of students in Coleytown Middle School who take a musically correlated class during school put in a sufficient amount of effort, and take lots of risks in their other academic classes. About forty-seven percent of kids who do take a musically correlated class at Coleytown Middle School feel confident in their other classes, sixty-eight percent feel relaxed, and about forty-four percent feel hard working and diligent. This proves that students taking musically correlated classes develop positive traits in other academic learning environments.

As you can see, positive traits listed in the question were the answers that received the most tally's

Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants mentions, “Schools that have rigorous programs and high-quality music teachers probably have high-quality teachers in other areas. If there is an environment where there are a lot of people doing creative, smart, great things, joyful things, even people who are not doing that have a tendency to go up and do better.”

So, she is encouraging schools just like ours to continue to fund music programs, with high level teachers because if there are high level teachers in the arts area, it is more likely that all other teachers in the community will also teach at a higher level to meet the arts teachers if this has not happened already.

Musically correlated classes positively affect a student in many other ways which tie into their academic classes. For example, according to the National Association for Music Education, “Even when performing with sheet music, student musicians are constantly using their memory to perform. The skill of memorization can serve students well in education and beyond.”

Students who take these classes also learn to think creatively and solve problems using various solutions. Students also appreciate that they need sustained effort and hard work to achieve excellence.

Even with budget constraints, music programs should be a priority in our school systems. Schools should be required to invest in music programs and musically correlated classes.

Taking musically correlated classes positively refines a student’s academic abilities, and positively affects the student’s emotions and performance. Students should be encouraged to take musically correlated classes to benefit themselves in all of these aspects in their school community.

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