I was thinking about this post and was reminded about how much I value my education and whether it would have been the same without the musical elements. What would I have been doing if it hadn’t been that? Personally, I’d rather not think about that, since I am who I am because of my musical training. My wife pointed out to me earlier this evening that if you asked anyone whether music education is important in schools, they would all unanimously say yes (Including national media companies such as Fox News). But when it comes to enacting those opinions in policy and reality, the methods vary widely.
In our last post, Kris Engstrom from Billinghurst Middle School pointed out that music education and arts don’t get recognition in local media outlets. In national media circles, you definitely hear more about student athletic competitions more than musical festivals, competitions, seminars, and conferences. How can a Heritage Festival in California possibly compete with a multi-million dollar March Madness tournament? Local schools get awards like crazy at these competitions, but it takes a miracle (or a really high-profile event) to get any kind of media coverage. How can we change this?
Until our culture and political climate changes, advocacy is key. Pressing for more media coverage on social media is a great way to expose the gap in recognition. Musical conferences (such as those from the American Choral Directors’ Association and the National Association for Music Education) are a great way to draw new audiences and grow programs around the country. Education programs such as Music in our Schools Month help to raise awareness of music education in schools and grow programs. We need to get the names of our students, directors, and musical teachers out there as much as possible. Even if it means that we have to inundate local media outlets with letters, press releases, emails, and social media plugs, we can eventually grow the awareness of the need for more coverage.
There is no disputing the need for performing arts in our society. People’s lives are enriched by public speaking, concerts, plays, musicals, and dance. (I found an interesting TED talk from Ben Cameron on performing arts in society today) As music educators, we need to continue to advocate for our programs. Fight the good fight, and keep music education alive in our schools. Perhaps someday, the recent emergence of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programs will be revised to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math).
Photo credit: NAfME – Broader Minded