Last weekend, we packed into a crowded auditorium to listen to the County Honors Band and Choir.
This assemblage consisted of high school students handpicked to represent their schools in a joint program. In our case, GirlWonder and a select group of fellow choir and band members drove to another local high school to join with a band (pun!) of brothers and sisters in song for two marathon practice days.
Then, on the appointed day and hour, the students filed into the hushed, darkened auditorium, choir robes dusted off just for the occasion, rustling as they took to risers. They lifted their voices in song and blew all our expectations out of the water.
There is a special place in heaven for the educators who teach the arts. I like to imagine how the planning session for this went: “So, we are going to take a co-ed group of hormonally charged teenagers, put them in a room together for two long days, and have them focus on music and singing. I’m thinking songs from the late 1800s mostly. It will be fab.”
And it was.
They were amazing. I mention this not as the proud musical parent. I’m actually a fairly terrible musical parent. I knew GirlWonder had signed up for “chorale.” Sounded fun and was good for a credit. Even though she’s been singing around the house since infancy, I didn’t think much of it beyond “sounds like a fun class.”
I was proud, but caught off guard, when she announced that she had “probably” made Honor’s Choir. I was completely surprised to read (via social media) that it had actually happened.
They were amazing because a group of hardworking students, dedicated teachers and selfless volunteer conductors (of great acclaim from a local university) came together to work tirelessly for hours to get teenagers to work in perfect harmony — literally and figuratively.
It was a joyous sound indeed.
The thing is that like too many of us I had failed to realize and appreciate the benefits of musical education. In a society that now embraces STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) we are great risk of forgetting the “A” — Arts.
At the opening of the program, the emcee gave a wonderful rundown of the need to turn our laudable focus on STEM into a broader focus on STEAM. Science, technology, engineering, ARTS and math.
As a mathematical idiot, I am the first to embrace a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality when it comes to wanting my own children to excel at mathematics. Ditto science and technology. As someone who has only a dim memory of the hydro-logic cycle and a wholly useless recollection of Wordstar and Lotus to show for the “Science” and “Technology” portions of my education, I am the first to applaud children learning more of all that smart stuff.
We are at risk, however, of losing our grip on the Arts. The arts are an important part of education and yet in many educational settings, they are first at risk for cuts.
Did you know that students who study music are more likely to excel in all of their studies, be better at team projects, demonstrate advanced critical thinking and pursue higher education?
Schools with music programs have an estimated 90.2 percent graduation rate and 93.9 percent attendance rate compared to schools without music education, which average 72.9 percent graduation and 84.9 percent attendance.
Finally, a study from Columbia University showed that students who study arts have higher levels of self-confidence, and are more equipped to express themselves.
I applaud the sciences and it goes without saying I believe a solid grasp of the English language coupled with strong reading skills is an absolute must.
I just want to add that, in my own experience, having seen the hard work, teamwork and harmony that goes into a musical production I hope we can all join in ensuring that education for the arts doesn’t lose STEAM.