Music is a tool that brings people together.
For years school districts have cut music and the arts. With Covid, one would think there would be a renewed effort to bolster school music programs to lift the spirits of children and families. Music would help to achieve diversity and equity in public education. But school music programs remain in trouble.
According to Save the Music:
The approximately 15,000 districts serving 5 million students in places with schools cutting music programs are predominantly in school districts that serve black, immigrant, and low-income student populations.
Much of the problem centers on small charter schools that cannot sustain a music program for students.
The curriculum is changing to reflect social-emotional learning, but strengthening music instruction and returning the arts to all public schools, especially with the Covid pandemic, is rarely mentioned. What could be more helpful to a child’s social-emotional health than both listening to and playing music?
Music lifts students, and it’s well known that it improves academic achievement. Parents are proud to observe their children’s creativity. Without music, schools are a shell of what they could be for students and the community.
Music also leads to jobs.
We know how important music is to child development.
Watching marching bands during a Memorial Day parade or a football halftime show, and attending concerts open to the public throughout the year, help us become positively vested with local public schools.
We see upfront where tax dollars go and get to enjoy the entertainment.
Since No Child Left Behind, the bad news is that schools have focused on high-stakes assessments and academics.
The Every Student Succeeds Act is supposed to provide Title I money for music in schools, but there’s no time for it, and students and teachers are data points. There’s no incentive involving corporate school reform for music or marching bands.
Parents and teachers understand that the loss of music in schools is a loss for students and the community. It’s a surefire way to end public schools. Here are a few places where it’s happening.
Detroit has tried to reinstate art classes and instrumental music, but many schools still go without the arts.
Grand Forks, ND
In Grand Forks, music teachers rally the community to fight school budget cuts that will leave schools without music. They’re trying to help parents and the community see that music develops a good work ethic in students.
One mother who is a pediatrician states: It’s important that kids have an opportunity to do things that don’t get them in trouble.
They shouldn’t have to offer reasons why music is necessary. Americans have to understand by now how critical music is for everyone.
Teachers went on strike this past week in Scranton, the President’s hometown.
According to Barbara Madeloni, the school board cuts educators’ health insurance, PreK education, and the arts, including music and libraries. In return, the board, which seems to lack any insight about cause and effect, wants bigger class sizes and longer days.
New Orleans, LA
In New Orleans, music is a way of life, but music instruction became a memory when schools converted to charters after Katrina. Charter schools are not large enough to include bands.
Students now rely on music nonprofits to ensure that some students have access.
New York City
It’s hard to believe that New York, like New Orleans, silenced music in poor schools.
According to The New York Times:
Between 2002 and 2013, New York City closed 69 high schools, most of them large schools with thousands of students, and in their place opened new, smaller schools.
And like New Orleans, smaller schools mean that students have no access to the numbers necessary to make a band.
Guest columnist Lianna Magerr writes in Open Call: Wilmington Children’s Chorus empowers young people to inspire change:
In some cases, schools and organizations used the pandemic as the excuse they’d been waiting for to cut music and arts programs altogether. This is a tragedy, as there has never been a more crucial time in history to raise up our next generation of leaders to be inspired and creative. There is no better way to do this than to fill their lives with art and music.
How many students no longer have access to music? How are the music programs where you live?
Music brings people together and teaches students how to get along and support one another. It’s time America invests in music for all students. It is time we make the world a happier place.
Block, S. and Taylor, K. (2018, May 2013).In New York High Schools, the Sound of Music Is Muted. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/13/nyregion/nyc-music-high-school.html.