Value of participation in music needs more recognition

Having been a band director in District 728 for 22 years (1966-1988) and subsequently a band director and music professor at two universities and a District 728 resident, I’ve watched with interest and, I must say, disappointment with the reduction of the senior high school band director’s time allotted to the students in the senior high school band program.

The lack of sufficient student participation has been given as the reason the band director’s position at the high school is being reduced to 60 percent. It seems to me that a fundamental question needs to be asked. That is: Is having a quality band program important to the students and residents of District 728? If the answer is yes, then the program needs to be supported and the band director’s position needs to be full time.

Unfortunately, too often the value of music education programs in our schools is no longer apparent to those outside the programs. During my tenure as a band director in District 728, Mr. Zabee, Dr. Olsen, and Mr. Solheim recognized the value of having quality band and choir programs for the students and community and provided outstanding support for them – even in very difficult financial times. Because of the support and commitment of these administrators, the band and choir programs grew in student participation and quality.

Perhaps more support would be given if everyone understood the value of a quality music education. The question of why music deserves answers based on scholarly research.

The primary reason to include a subject in a curriculum is because it is seen as inherently worth studying. Music’s inherent value can be described in terms of aesthetic value and cultural value.

“Aesthetics” refers to the study and appreciation of beauty or artistry primarily by performing written works, but also by composing and improvising music. The aesthetic aspect of music study develops students in the areas of creativity, innovation and communication.

In case the inherent value of music is not sufficient to ensure its place in the curriculum, the study of music also provides additional benefits to students. Some commonly cited research findings are:

•Schools offering more arts education classes have higher academic achievement and lower dropout rates regardless of student socioeconomic status.

•Music students score higher on average on college entrance exams than nonmusic students.

•Music training improves students’ abstract reasoning skills — more so than computer instruction.

•Students spending more time in arts education classes (especially music) have higher math skills with the skills increasing as the time in the arts increased.

•Students with daily music instruction score higher on tests of creativity.

•Students given music instruction raised their reading test scores higher after six months than students in discussion skills classes.

•Music students across all socioeconomic levels are more cooperative, more self-confident and better able to express themselves than other students.

The research* is very clear regarding the benefits of the study of music on other areas of students’ academic achievement.

I want to encourage the District 728 administrators to recognize the benefits of quality band and choir programs by supporting them; our students and our community deserve it. — Dr. Bruce Pearson, music educator, author and composer, Elk River (Editor’s note: Research findings available in the booklet, “Why Music Is Basic: The Value of Music Education.”)