To the Editor: Music is a Universal Language and a Learning Tool
Resident urges readers to encourage their children to get involved musically. She said No Child Left Behind is having a deleterious effect on music programs.
Longfellow called it “The universal language of mankind,” and Confucius believed it to be “A kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” It exists in every world culture, and scientists believe it may predate human speech. During March, schools across the country are celebrating it by taking part in Music in our Schools Month.
Our brains are wired to respond to sound, and to have a powerful emotional connection to music, so it’s only natural that it should be part of our school curriculum. Young children respond instinctively to its elements — chanting, singing, and dancing are part of the natural rhythm and play of early childhood.
Aside from the innate joy that singing and dancing brings, songs and rhymes also are ideal vehicles for teaching important concepts to young children, and for developing multicultural appreciation. They’re also handy mnemonic devices — most of us probably first memorized our ABCs by singing that famous song.
For young adults in the throes of adolescence, music is the perfect place for the neurochemical pyrotechnics of the teenage brain to find an outlet. (It’s probably the reason that, even though you have limited memories of those high school math theorems and science formulas, you still know every track of your favorite teenage tunes and prom songs by heart.)
For kids who struggle academically, but have a talent and passion for music, it can be the motivator that brings them to school each day and allows them to shine and feel good about themselves. For kids who are academically strong, for whom school holds few challenges, music can be the place where they truly are inspired to stretch and reach their full potential.
Dr. Daniel Levitin a musician, neurologist, and author of “This is Your Brain on Music,” found, through brain scans, that almost every area of the brain is activated in the process of reading and making music. It’s like weight-lifting for your noggin. Perhaps that’s why a study by the College Entrance Examination Board found that students with coursework in music score 57 points higher in the verbal and 43 points higher in the math portions of the SAT.
Another study by ERIC — the Educational Resources Information Center — found that 66 percent of music majors who applied to medical school versus 44 percent of biochemistry majors are admitted to these programs. That’s the highest percentage of any college major group.
In an age where learning has become largely visual, music is a means to develop students’ aural abilities and critical listening skills. Creativity, teamwork, collaboration, focus and self-discipline — all of these life skills are developed in our schools through music study.
Yet, despite all of this good news, music programs across our nation are becoming endangered species. The unfunded federal mandate known as No Child Left Behind has caused resources and time in school once reserved for the Arts to be shifted to reading and writing.
In our state, the 2 percent cap and unfunded mandates like the new teacher evaluations and the HIB Law have placed additional economic pressure on districts to curtail or eliminate Music and Arts programs.
If you want to help preserve music in our schools, jump on the bandwagon! Speak to your school administrators and school board members and let them know you value school music programs. To find out more about what you can do to help, go to www.nafme.org, www.nammfoundation.org, or www.acemm.us.
Plato believed that “Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.” Music in our schools nurtures our young people’s hearts, souls, minds, and imaginations.
If you agree, please don’t let the music stop. Let your voice be heard, and ensure that “Music in our Schools” remains a priority, not just in March, but all through the school year for all of our children.