The Case for Music Education for All

Guest contributor Daniel Powers Jr. draws on history as well as his personal experience to make the case for music education for all.

As a father of three children under the age of ten, I have a deep understanding of our need to get our kids a quality education and perhaps music lessons from time to time. From the time they take their first steps to their first driving exam, an enormous about of our energy as parents is spent on getting our kids to learn. By the time they have moved out of the house and are on their own, we then probably hold our noses and squint at the sound of them making the same mistakes we made, pushing back against the same things we pushed back at and roll our eyes with some of their decisions. Like our parents, we probably wonder why we made such a fuss in the first place.

I come from a family of educators and the one resounding theme I hear at the dinner table with my educator-relatives is how the education system is perhaps “not working like it should,” possibly a myriad of conversation about not just what they have to teach day in and day out but how. The overwhelming need of a teacher to use their creative juices and convey sometimes extremely complex mathematic or science ideas to kids has been replaced with seemingly robotic testing and tracking methods.

As a student myself all those years ago, I can relate to the students that can’t excel at testing as well as the kids that just learn a different way. I digress however, because I am here not to take apart the educational system in NYC or elsewhere. I am not here to second-guess the well-informed minds that are coming up with ways to push this little generation of learners ahead. I am here to make the case for including the arts in our kid’s education for all.

The arts give students a whole new way of expressing themselves. Students use their minds in a way that is unparalleled in most classroom situations. We as a society take the arts for granted not because we scoff at the idea that individuals can be artists for a living, but because our access to art is all around us. The internet has changed the music industry forever by making music something we can access in our office chair with a click of a mouse or perhaps on a train with a swipe of a finger and maybe a push of a link. On Pinterest, we compile endless Jpegs of images thereby creating our own visual art. We sit on our couches and push a button to access shows, TV’s and movies without hesitation or problems. Instant gratification is experienced as we can get entertainment from a variety of sources anyway we want at any time.

Everything we need from art is at out fingertips. But what if it wasn’t? What if we had to create the art we liked to enjoy? Thomas Jefferson writing to his daughter once said, “Do not neglect your music. It will be a companion which will sweeten many hours of life to you.” Did she hit play on iTunes to listen to “her music?” No, she performed as a hobby because it was part of her education.

What about Albert Einstein who played the violin and piano, Neil Armstrong (Baritone Horn), Alexander Graham Bell (piano), Charles Dickens (Accordion) or Thomas Edison (Piano & Violin)? What did they do?

The list of famous people that actively contributed to the betterment of society and excelled in the arts is too long and exhaustive to be included here. The laser-like focus on science and math today is something that is important for this country and for the future of our kids. But let’s also take a step back and remember that the most genius individuals of all time who excelled in their field of study and contributed most in the world had studied music and/or the arts in their lifetime. It was a part of their education, of their rounding out and a part of the communities they grew up in. There is something to be said for a nation that puts the quality of education first but also the deeper more intrinsic part of our education as well. What do you think?

Written by Daniel Powers Jr., founder of Real Brave. Established in 2003, Real Brave is a music lesson school home to hundreds of students in Queens, NY. More information can be found here: www.realbraveaudio.com or at the studio (718) 454-0100. Real Brave provides lessons in Guitar, Piano, Drums, Vocals, Sax, Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Viola and Cello. Real Brave records their students who perform two times a year.

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