Today as I opened my computer there was a beautiful picture. It reminded me of the song, “America the Beautiful”. I learned that song while I was in elementary school. We had a rich musical program in those days. I sang in the choir and accompanied the band on the piano.
I remember the joy that music brought me. I loved to sing. I learned to sing harmony by singing along with the radio. Grandma had a radio in her kitchen which I often turned on while I was working there.
Music does provide entertainment. It does not matter whether it is religious music or secular music. I enjoy it all. I even enjoy some of the classical music. I have a few CDs with classical music. Don and I often listened to them as we drove.
I have a book that is about what the days and months of the year celebrate. Low and behold I found out that we celebrate music in our schools this month. Music first became part of the curriculum in 1938. In another sixteen years we will celebrate one hundred years of music education.
It seems that music and art have taken on a lesser role in the last several years. That is unfortunate because music and art bring so much to the educational setting. Students who do not do well with the academics often succeed in music and art. While they are electives in high school, they are an integral part of the elementary curriculum.
A long time ago I started a choir in our church. At that time, we had quite a few children attending. I knew the joy that music brought and wanted that for my own children as well as the children in our church. The young people learned to enjoy music. More than one or two parents thanked me for making it a priority at church. It was a social time as well as an adventure in music. I found songs that the young people enjoyed singing. We “took our show” on the road often singing at other churches and at various senior living facilities. The children learned to sing parts as they improved their skills of reading music. By the time we were done we had several guitar players that could accompany us on some of the songs. In the end some of those young people entered the music program at high school.
My own musical experiences provided the motivation for this musical adventure. Music was always a part of my experience. I can recall one particular musical program where we sang the songs that were popular during the war years. That program ended with a human “Statue of Liberty” with the flag billowing behind her while the choir sang “America”. It was a very moving presentation.
In high school I tried the band but soon gave it up in favor of the choir. I was only able to fit choir into my schedule during two of my four years of high school. I missed out on two trips. At that time, we had a very active music instructor. We had a troupe of dancers, a choir, and a band. For our programs we sang many of the songs from the current musicals that were in the theaters. Although some of the songs we sang were lesser known, they became favorites. I can still hum along if I put on the old music.
I know that budget cuts have stretched our music teachers and art teachers to the max as they travel from school to school. During this travel time they lose valuable education time. They used to be able to give lessons, but that has slipped away. How are children to learn to play these instruments without lessons? Then, the money for instruments has decreased as well. Not all children can afford to rent an instrument for the child to learn on. We were on a limited budget when our children went through school. I was fortunate to find some used instruments to purchase at a reasonable price so they could learn to play them. It was cheaper than renting them.
I know the numbers are dwindling, but I still think music and art education are essential to a well-rounded education. Look at the school musicals that are being produced. They put the whole scenario together. No, not every student who participates in music and art go into it for a life employment opportunity, but it does have a purpose. It lightens the burden of education. It provides opportunities for success. It is fun!
Support the music and art departments at your school. They are every bit as important as the sports opportunities. After all, how many of our athletes go on to become professionals? At least if you have an interest in art and music you can do it for your whole life.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.