In Sunday's New York Times (3/22) there is an interesting column about the need for music education in our schools. In the Classical View column titled " Don't Blame Modernist for the Empty Seats," Paul Griffiths describes the decline of classical music, its recordings, audiences, musicians, etc. Rather than lament about the decline he offers a solution.
He writes, "Instead of worrying about how classical music has reached its present precarious condition, we might better spend our time thinking over how things could be improved... We should resolve, most vitally, to encourage and enhance music in schools... And all of the evidence suggests that performing music help a child in acquiring other skills. Music seems to hook into part o the brain that have to do with mathematics and language abilities."
He continues, "On a more practical level, a child involved in musical performance is confronted with challenges that will be of lifelong benefit: how you present yourself in public, how you argue a case, how you interpret a document, what evidence you accept and what you will question, where you draw the line between what you are told and what you want, how you work with others toward a common goal." He then goes on to discus the important intrinsic value of music education as well.
The timing of this article is ironic. Here's why. Many of our colleagues in Philadelphia have recently emerged from a successful battle against an effort to privatize music education in the Philadelphia Public School system by the management of some local cultural institutions (with some federal funding support for good measure) which would have made music available only to those who can afford it (a position certainly not supported by the column referenced above nor Secretary Riley's speech). The plan, which was promoted to "help music teachers," somehow forgot to check with the teachers to see what kind of help they needed.
As a matter of opinion, I have never understood the philosophy of some organizations who propose to support music and arts education IN our schools by taking it OUT of the schools! Nor do I understand how organizations can support music and arts education by excluding from the planning and debate the very people who have been trained in their art form and certified as teachers of the arts so they may bring this vaulable gift to our children. These are contradictions that can never be reconciled.
Make no mistake, there is a valuable, important, supporting role our cultural organization can (and must!) play to support music and arts education. And the arts education community welcomes this. But, it starts with unquestionable dedication to the support of music and arts education as a basic subject in our schools (and support for the arts educators that bring these programs to our children). This must be the founding premise for ANY partnership.
The NYT column is a supporting article that, based on recent history, the doctor ordered. Run out to your news stands and get a copy today!
Source: New York Times, 3/22/98, Philadelphia Music Advocates
This article was taken from the Music Education Online Site.