Just Sayin’: Soap Box, and I Don’t Mean Derby

I have been way too quiet about the arts in education for way too long. I know this is a kind of a bully pulpit and have tried to respect  that,  BUT, I feel the need to mount my proverbial soap box and say a word about the arts in education.

I recently received a post that was an exerpt from a speech given by Andrew Schwartz,  a former music major at Manhattan School of Music now working on his MBA. In it,  he outlined various reasons why the arts are so vital to the development of children and education.  I’m going to include a few quotes here because Andrew Schwartz said it better than I can, and besides, why reinvent the wheel?

“It’s no secret that education in America is broken. We can’t define a good school, let alone figure out a way to measure success. Yet when money is tight, as it is right now because of the forced budget cuts, the first thing to be cut is always the arts. And that’s a tragedy.”

He continues: “But through that transition, [from music major to MBA program] I’ve realized why music needs to be a cornerstone of education. Music is an art and a science, and it’s one of the best ways kids can learn creativity and those mythical critical thinking skills. The focus of the music curriculum isn’t forcing everyone to learn about Bach or Mozart. It’s about learning how to think, rather than what to think. That “how” is the holy grail of education. It’s exactly what makes a good scientist, a good entrepreneur or a productive member of society. I don’t play the tuba anymore, but I think the lessons I learned from it are actually more ingrained into me now that I have some distance from the actual medium I learned them in.”

Here are the topics Mr. Schwartz covered as he continued this article. He expanded on just how these are taught through music.

Work hard and it pays off – he tells of how hard he had to work when, in junior high, he decided he wanted to challenge first chair in his instrument.

Make it happen –  we all know the saying about the show must go on. Regardless of the obstacles, you have to make it happen.

Know where you stand – you have to know how your part fits into the whole.

Do your research – knowing the background, not only of your material, but also your tools (instrument) will improve your performance.

Make connections – learning the relationship of your material, but also learning the relationship of the artist and audience [seller and customer] are lessons applicable all through life.

Work with others – you can’t play a string quartet by yourself.

Be responsible for your work – Even now, as I’m teaching a small choir of 4th – 8th graders, these lessons are being learned. Complete responsibility for one’s own work output? You bettcha. If you can’t make the entrance at the right time; if you can’t sing on pitch; if you haven’t learned the lyrics; if you can’t be heard beyond the first row . . . .you are not going to get the solo. Your mom, dad, teacher or best friend can’t sing the solo for you. It’s just you and how much effort  you’ve put into it.

You also learn that it takes way more work for some folks to achieve a desired level of performance than it seems to demand of others. This is probably one of the more valuable lessons we learn in music. What is difficult for some seems to be easy for others. Doesn’t matter. You will find this is true all through life in many mediums. BUT, hard work and dedication will result in an improved output from wherever you start out.

And I’m certain I don’t need to point out that these lessons appear again and again no matter in which field of the arts you endeavor. Painting, drama, writing, graphic design, architecture . .. you learn the lessons younger and most profoundly through the discipline of the arts.

That’s my soap box and I’m standing on it!

P.S. here is a link to the full article.

Note: Tuba player Andrew Schwartz holds a bachelor’s of music from the University of Hartford. He did graduate work at The Manhattan School of Music and is working on an MBA at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business, where he is president-elect of the Graduate Business Association. He is an intern at Atlanta-based music startup Tunefruit. Schwartz’s story first appeared on CNN iReport.

Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years.
A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes … she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.

Adrienne Jacoby
Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years. A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes … she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.
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8 Responses

  1. Avatar Lynn Fitzpatrick says:

    Excellent article and very, very true! Too bad that budgets overlook the big picture of educating the "whole" person with the fine art experiences, in a way that only fine arts can accomplish.

  2. Avatar Terry says:

    So very true!! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  3. Avatar Stan says:

    Yes, it's true that fine arts courses will be dumped before sports. It's always been this way. A good example of the value of music in the schools is the Shasta College Symphonic (Community) Band. We've had people in it from age 10 to 93! We have doctors, dentists, attorneys, accountants, nurses, teachers, cabinet makers, IT techs, retired, school kids, cartographers, optometrists, and I could go on. The existence of all these very different folks in our band, makes Schultz's point. Music has not only helped in their successful careers but given them enjoyment throughout their lives. It wouldn't surprise me if they know their fractions, too. :)~

  4. Avatar Jan Gandy says:

    So true -so true. I pine for art classes, too. The youngsters now days stay at after-school care because both parents work. Why not have art and music as part of that program? A volunteer program could be set up pretty easily. I used to do art classes at N. Cow Creek School as a volunteer. Come on — let's get creative.

    Thanks, Adrienne.

  5. Avatar Mike Stuart says:

    Adrienne,

    Thanks for stepping up on the soapbox to advocate for the arts. Whether it is music, drama or art, students do, in fact, benefit in the ways you write about and many more.

    Students in the arts, like those in clubs and athletics, learn to be confident, valued, the joy of teamwork, camaraderie and working hard for individual and group goals. I have often told Dan Niece and Deborah Divine that they are the best coaches I know. As a high school student I played three sports but was also in the Choir and Chorus. I experienced the music the same as the athletic – pure excitement, sense of belonging and the gratification of achievement through hard work and great teacher/coaches. Schools need to find ways to keep the arts as they are so important to the development of positive, contributing American citizens.

    Mike

    • Avatar `AJacoby says:

      Thanks, Mike . . . , it's nice to know that an administrator agrees with me, But then, the outstanding arts programs supported at Enterprise High could never have happened without the support of the administration,

  6. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    Thank you for a great article Adrienne. Research backs up every thing you write. I think we have a cultural issue with arts and music that some other cultures don't have. It's possible that the new emphasis on reasoning and thinking skills with the Common Core Standards will take into consideration aspects of learning that can't be measured by multiple choice questions on a standardized test. Again, thank you!

  7. Avatar Penny Harris says:

    I add my thanks, Adrienne and urge those who are looking for a way to help bring the visual arts into our local schools, scout troops, after schools and home schools to check out the Famous Artists Program now run by volunteers through Turtle Bay. We just had our annual volunteer training yesterday and now there are 23 new volunteers along with about 50 experienced docents taking art activities based on famous artists and their works into classrooms. We have over 70 portfolios that can be checked out. You decide the school, the age level and how often. Give our program a call or an email and we can do a 1 on 1 quick intro. This is all free. No museum membership required. 242-3148 or famousartists@turtlebay.org

    Let's keep the arts alive in our schools for all the reasons you state.