Underappreciated Music Programs in Education

Why I Love Music

The seniors after winning 2nd place at our last competition

Budget cuts throughout the U.S. have caused severe losses in funding to public school music programs. Furthermore, under appreciated programs then suffer because of low participation rates, lack of equipment, and district priorities. This leads music in schools to be viewed as nerdy, uncool, and boring. This negative outlook and lack of participation has created an unequal balance of funding in schools. Schools are far more likely to designate their funds to the attractive and crowd-pleasing sports programs rather than to the disadvantaged music programs. This leaves these rejected groups to scrounge for money on their own.

The biggest reason I chose to to write on this topic today was because I experience this issue first hand. When I came to GHS my freshman year, it was a huge jump in my life. I came from a very small private school, with my entire 8th grade class being 16 students. I never expected to have any friends at all, or become choir president; I never expected to spend 21 hours at a competition. But joining choir was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I have never been in a more accepting, friendly, and supportive program than choir. It gave me a place to belong and I hope that it will continue to do so for others. My choir is my family. But despite the impact it's made in many students' lives, I still question if the community is even aware that Glendora High School has three show choirs, or if they know that our “suggested donation” is $750 per student per year. Or if they understand that this money isn't even enough to pay for music, costuming, sets, and competition fees, which forces us to raise the extra money for costs above the donation. But we willingly sacrifice our time and effort because we love it. And it breaks my heart to know that we are made fun of, ignored, and are limited from growing and expanding due to the economic neglect we face from our school district. So choir impatiently watches as the football team plays under the Friday night lights on a college campus hoping that one day we can finally receive the same respect.

It's wonderful that a large portion of our nation's schools are dedicated to sports and other extracurricular activities. These activities, mainly sports, often encourage community, teamwork and are beneficial to physical health. But because most funds are directed towards these programs, schools often lack the ability to organize programs that tap into the creative side of the human brain. If a school's main purpose is to educate, how can they ignore the benefits of music in regards to the effects it creates academically. Physical health is great, but mental health is equally important. Innumerable amounts of research has proven that the benefits of music are significant. Music is a stimulating activity which supports language development, high IQ’s, spatial temporal skills, improved test scores and overall makes your brain work harder. According to PBS.org and Dr. Eric Rasmussen, “Research indicates the brain of a musician, even a young one, works differently than that of a non musician. There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training. When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain” (Rasmussen). Tapping into the creative side of students' brains is something we cannot afford to compromise. If people want to strengthen every aspect of their mind, they have to engage every part of it. How does the American education undermine the important benefits of music but still claims that it is their goal to provide the best public education for all of its citizens? Think about this: America ranked 35th out of 72 countries in math. And according to Dr. Christopher Johnson, and Jenny Memmott, “Students in top-quality instrumental programs scored 17% higher in mathematics than children in schools without a music program, and 33% higher in mathematics than students in a deficient choral program” (Johnson and Memmott). Maybe a factor behind our low scores is that the U.S. doesn’t strongly encourage the learning and understanding of music in public schools, because countries that do, like China, are far more successful in math than we are. The scariest part is, our music programs are still at risk. An article published this year by the San Francisco Chronicle states that California will greatly feel the effects of pension costs. “School district officials say that unless the situation changes, they will have to make cuts elsewhere, possibly leading to larger class sizes, stagnant worker pay, fewer counselors and librarians, and less art and music in schools” (Tucker). If we lose these music programs, we also lose the positive aspects that come with it. This is why unequal budgeting is a problem, but how can it be fixed?

I’m not trying to say that programs other than those involving music aren't beneficial, rather that they just suffer the most. The solution? To evenly balance funding in all programs. Here's how I propose we should do it. The initial sum of money would be generated by the district itself. All allocated funds for athletics, arts and other extra curricular activities would then be given to the programs on a per pupil basis. Hypothetically, if the budget for these activities amounts to $5,000 and it is decided that the amount for each student is $10, then a choir of 140 students receives $1,400. A basketball team with 50 students receives $500. In each school district there would also be a funding committee made up of students, teachers and administrators. This volunteer-based organization would encourage and host a variety of fundraisers in addition to writing grants to raise money for each and every program. However, the programs can then individually fund, for any costs outside of what the organization is willing to give them. This levels the playing field for all school programs and gives them equal opportunity to be successful and well supplied. Some would say, “Doesn't that then limit programs that previously had that extra money?” It can seem like this is the case. But this forces all programs to make compromises rather than solely attacking and putting pressure on music due to budget cuts. In short, the organization would spread out the pressure of budget cuts over a large amount of groups to alleviate it off a few group's shoulders. This gives every group equal opportunity to succeed. In addition, this organization has the potential to make enough money to provide very ample funding for all programs.

Ultimately, my main hope for education is that people begin to realize the benefits of music programs and the injustice they have suffered and are suffering. As believed by Anthony Mazzocchi, “Music is one of the most impressive and beautiful achievements of the human race and deserves a permanent place in education. The intellectual growth and happiness of our children depend on it” (Mazzocchi).  Overall, our communities are losing important and creative programs that help students thrive. Schools desperately need to focus their budgets on programs that are beneficial to the human mind and it is extremely detrimental to education to ignore music. This is happening all around us, even at our own school. And I fear that there will be a day in the future, when I will have to send my children to school, and they will miss out on all of the opportunities and community that music programs provide. Thank you.

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