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Importance of Music and Arts Education

Importance of Music and Arts Education


[Piano piece]>>Gary Price: It’s a normal school day,
and in a small rehearsal room Drew is practicing her Beethoven. [Trumpet scales]>>Price: Next door, Ian warms up on his trumpet.
There are other students there waiting to play the drums, piano, brass – even the
ukulele. These students are part of a program at the British International School of Chicago,
South Loop – or BISC – that integrates music and the arts into the curriculum for all students
– from nursery to high school. While many schools across the country are having to cut
back or eliminate music, drama, art and dance classes because of budget constrictions, The
British International Schools throughout North America and the world have expanded their
program, entering into a partnership with the world-famous Juilliard Conservatory. But
aside from teaching a child to play an instrument, sing, dance or paint, do the arts help them
in other areas of study? Do they contribute substantially to their overall academic success
and success in life? We spoke to two music educators and some students to find out. Rachel
White-Hunt is a Curriculum Fellow for the Juilliard-Nord Anglia Performing Arts Programme
and Director of Music at BISC. She says that their students grow up with the arts, and
that participating in them throughout their school years helps to sharpen their thought
processes in other areas…>>Rachel White-Hunt: We want our students
to feel a 100-percent confident in creating and exploring ideas, concepts, making links,
and that style of learning about the arts then just transfers into everything, you know.
You’re being taught to think very, very differently. And that skill is something they
can then transfer into all their learning.>>Price: In fact, research shows that the
brain acts differently when a child is exposed to music…>>Diane Persellin: The creative arts, music,
dance and aerobic activity all have the ability to improve executive functions such as decision-making
skills, and intelligence linked to academic performance.>>Price: That’s Diane Persellin, Professor
of Music Education at Trinity University in San Antonio…>>Persellin: But nothing activates as many
areas of the brain as music. We have some great research including a study at Dartmouth
that confirmed that music has a greater effect than any other stimulus to enhance connections
between the brain’s right and left hemispheres, as well as the areas where memories and emotions
develop. So actively participating in music experience helps enhance these connections.
And these music experiences can change the brain which has to help executive function.>>Price: For several of the students at BISC,
music education has helped them in a number of their classes. Vanya is 14 years old and
plays the piano…>>Vanya Lazarevic: I think that playing an
instrument, it basically exercises your brain. I guess you see many different aspects of
the same thing. The same way you analyze music, you can analyze history, or an English piece.
It’s just kind of gives you that extra practice that you need.>>Price: She says that Juilliard alumni mentors
help with individualized instruction and also come to their classes and challenge students
to listen to a piece not just as it’s traditionally played, but in different styles and on different
instruments…>>Vanya Lazarevic: Andrew, one of the mentors
from Juilliard, he taught us how to delve more into the music, offering us another angle
from how we’re originally taught. For example, we were given a Bach piece and he played a
version on double bass and he gave us a score and asked us how we could interpret it differently.
And the way we interpreted it and the he played our markings suggested that the same piece
of music can have so many different moods.>>Price: Thirteen-year-old Rachel is learning
to play the ukulele, an instrument that is becoming more popular these days. She says
that Andrew also helped students in one of her non-arts classes…>>Rachel Spahn: He came into our Spanish
class, so we did some cross-curricular activities. We sang a song in Spanish about our topic,
so vacation, and he added a Cuban bass line with his double bass, so we got to be exposed
to that culture and include it in our song, which helped us develop the cross-curricular
activity.>>Price: Finding the right instrument for
a student who is interested in playing isn’t always the one they think they want a the
beginning. Santiago is 15 and plays the piano and the alto saxophone. He says he came to
the sax through a collaboration between himself and his teacher…>>Santiago Oskandy: So we got like three
choices. So I think I chose trombone, saxophone and the drums. So out of those three choices
the teacher chooses which one you’re going to play. So I got the saxophone, right? And
so I wasn’t very convinced that I could be a good saxophone player when I first started.
But as I went through the program I just, I now have a love for the saxophone and I
appreciate it so much more than I used to.>>Price: Even the youngest students at BISC
are challenged. You might think that anything outside of the latest Disney cartoon hit would
be over the heads of four-year-olds, but Rachel White-Hunt says that you’d be surprised
at how they learn to appreciate sophisticated works and different genres…>>White-Hunt: There is the learning of basic
music concepts, you know when you’re that little you kind of have to understand pitch,
you have to be able to control your voice, you know you’re talking fine motor skills.
But that’s all wrapped around this idea that they are most certainly able to learn
through exploring these wonderful pieces of music. So a couple of weeks ago they were
dancing to Stravinsky and they all very naturally did very angular movements. So then there
was kind of, not even discussion but just a learning point about what are those angular
movements? You know, what does that look like in music? Beethoven’s Fifth, we’re exploring
that interval, yump bum-bum-buuum, and we’ve got the Beethoven game. The (Thelonious) Monk,
just improvisation even at that age, they can certainly sing their ideas or tap out
rhythms. So it’s about using that at an age-appropriate level. And the wonderful thing
about nursery kids is they’re completely unbiased. No one’s told them what’s cool
to listen to. They have no label. They’ll listen to Stravinsky, they’ll listen to
Britney Spears, and they hear what they hear and they will tell you the absolute truth,
and that leads to some amazing teaching opportunities for them.>>Price: Although kids like to listen to
music, not all of them are anxious to take lessons or join a choir. Persellin says that
it often takes time for a shy child to feel comfortable in a “performance” environment…>>Persellin: I’ve had some young students
who wouldn’t even participate in class they were so shy. They just kind of listened. But
I hear, on the way home I’m told from their parents, they sing all the way home in the
car and all around the house. So these are called reflective learners, reflective listeners,
and they may take a little longer to warm up to the idea of playing or singing in class.
And I think music teachers at all levels, not just those who work with young children,
they really need to create a safe space for making music to encourage children to be comfortable
making music. And once children develop this comfort to make music and they’re immersed
in the experience, then they’re often more willing to share their music with others.
But I think that comfort level needs to be developed.>>Price: White-Hunt has had that experience
herself with a student who was convinced she didn’t want to participate in the arts program…>>White-Hunt: In September, yup, this year
10 walks in and the first statement is, “Miss, don’t do this. I’m not an arts person.”
And I hear that, I’ve been teaching nearly 12 years now, I hear that so much. Or I hear
stories of adults who didn’t have a good experience and it just shut them off from
even daring to be creative. And this student spent three weeks in our program, and very,
very slowly she started to dip her toe in the water, started to get involved, engaged,
started to feel this sort of environment where it was safe to create. And now she is one
of our key cast in our musical, West Side Story. And, I mean if we’d have told her
that that day she walked through the door, I can tell you now she would have just said,
“Not a chance. That will never be me.” I really think that sort of embodies what
is happening here, and shows the importance of it. That’s opened up a whole new door
to that student.>>Price: Building confidence in a student
and allowing them to make something that is truly personal and artistic certainly helps
them later in life when they communicate at work and are asked to create innovative processes
and products. But with budget cuts in many districts, is it feasible for every school
to have a music program? Both Persellin and White-Hunt say that it doesn’t have to be
expensive…>>Persellin: Once one has a strong, certified
music educator one can build a strong program around that music educator. I don’t think
we need a lot of resources for a strong elementary music program, but one can also invest a lot
of money in high-quality elementary drums, a xylophone instruments, ukuleles, keyboards,
guitars and iPads, so it can be more costly. But I don’t think it has to be. For a choir
program you’ll need a keyboard, some kind of a piano, and some sheet music, usually,
but you don’t need to spend a lot of money beyond that music teacher and a keyboard.
A band and an orchestra program, they’re more of an investment because you need more
instruments.>>White-Hunt: The whole emphasis of this
program is about being inspired. And all you really need at its bare minimum is the ability
to listen to music, to talk about music, and to create an environment where your students
feel safe. You can compose using buckets and some drumsticks, you know you can compose
literally using different taps on your body. The emphasis is on listening, exposing students
to all different types of music, talking about it and creating an environment where they
feel safe to create themselves, and look back at that and say, “Well, why does that sound
like that? What does it remind you of?” So I think there is a place, I know there
is a place, a very important place for music education in all schools. And it’s just
about helping music teachers in America and around the world understand what that looks
like in their school.>>Price: Perhaps the question shouldn’t
be, “Can we afford to have a music program?” but rather, “For the sake of our students,
can we afford not to have one?” You can find out more about Rachel White-Hunt, the
British International School of Chicago-South Loop and the Juilliard-Nord Anglia Performing
Arts Programme there and in schools around the world by visiting their website at NordAngliaeducation.com.
For more information on Diane Persellin and the Trinity University music education program,
log onto their site at New.Trinity.edu. To learn more about all of our guests, log onto
our site at Viewpointsonline.net. You can find archives of past programs there and on
iTunes and Stitcher. I’m Gary Price. [music] [commercials]

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