An Important Truth: Musical Talent is not Born — It is Learned

Kinhaven 7-4-16-14This is a guest post by Dr. Anita Collins.  Anita is an award-winning Australian educator, academic and researcher in the area of music education, particularly in the impact of music education on cognitive development. Anita is a communicator, a conduit between neuroscientific researchers, music educators, musicians, parents and the general public, and works to update our understanding of the purpose and benefits of music education to overall cognitive development and health.  In 2014 Anita was involved with the TED.com network through two project; as author of a short animated film for TED Ed and as a presenter at TEDx Canberra. Both of these projects have been very well received with the TED Ed film reached 14 million and TEDxTalk reaching 1 million views to date.  You can read more about Anita and her work here.

This title could lead you the think that this article is going to be along the lines of “your child can do anything if they put their mind to it”.  Well it is and it isn’t, but I will let you decide where you stand on the question of musical talent after you finish reading.

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How to Advocate for Music Education (Even When You Have No Clue How to Do So)

kinhaven-7-10-16-140Whether you realize it or not, if your child is starting music study through their school’s music program this year, you are now a potentially powerful advocate for music education.

Since your child expressed an interest in singing or playing an instrument — and you said “yes: — you, and hundreds of thousands of other parents around the world, stated loud and clear that you value music as part of your child’s education.

Those of us who have enjoyed an education rich in the arts are aware of its many benefits. Although I developed high-level musical abilities and a lifelong appreciation of music with the help of my school program, research has proven that music education does much more than that: it develops creativity, responsibility, discipline, perseverance, composure, pride in results, collaboration, confidence, social and communications skills, and emotional maturity for all students, not just a chosen few.

Still, music education finds itself on the “danger of extinction list” each year due to budget constraints, scheduling trends, and — perhaps most concerning — public apathy.  A general lack of awareness of the importance of music in every school day can (and will) lead to an erosion in that school’s program. Even in districts where most students start an instrument in school in 4th or 5th grade, teachers and parents continue to search to find strength in numbers when it comes time to advocate for their programs.

As I have written before, it’s important for students to study and enjoy “art for art’s sake” — and for us to advocate for music education using this mantra, at times.  But the sad truth is that ironically, due to decades of attrition in school music programs, most parents, teachers, and administrators have not experienced the intrinsic joy of music making and the value it could have offered in their own school lives.  Therefore, it is up to this generation of parents and students to create a new level of understanding utilizing a viewpoint school administrators and boards can understand — albeit narrow and sometimes short-sighted.  And that is the effect of music education on the whole child, including test scores.  The more data parents can gather regarding the benefit of music education on all aspects of humanity, the more we can build advocacy efforts by creating dialogue that best relates to those who will determine the future of our music programs, sad as that me be to some of us.

Being a music advocate is not always about selling brownies at a music concert, helping wash band uniforms, or attending countless Board of Education meetings to give a speech on the value of music education (although all of these things are important!).  Rather, supporting children in their musical instruction, understanding the value it has on their human development, and being present when it counts is sometimes all that is needed to create a powerful force for music education in schools.

Here are 3 ways you can be a music advocate without completely changing your life around:

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3 Awful Things That Happen When Children are Denied Daily Arts Instruction in Schools

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Regardless of the social and economic circumstances of our time, the arts have an essential place in the balanced education of our children. In all the education discussion I hear and the literature I read, the arts are consistently given little … [Continue reading]

Why Your Musical Instrument Demonstration Means Everything to Your School’s Program

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There is no more exciting or important time in a child's musical life than the day they choose which instrument they want to learn to play in school.  More often than not, this choice occurs on a day where the instruments of the band and orchestra … [Continue reading]

A Recruitment Letter to Potential Music Parents’ Association (Booster) Members

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Dear Families: As our school year comes to a close, we want to congratulate you on embarking on what we hope is just one of many years of your child's (and your own) musical journey. Perhaps you were thinking that this year may be your last as … [Continue reading]

3 Reasons Music and Arts Education is a Shining Light in a School System that Values “Sameness”

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Somehow, some way, our school system has become completely standardized -- yet our children are anything but that. Instead of valuing children as individuals, our school system has designed itself to measure children against one thing -- an … [Continue reading]

3 Ways It Takes a Community to Develop Great Music Program

I have had the pleasure of meeting thousands of music educators while speaking at our nation's music educator conventions this year. These teachers all are consistently and passionately engaged in looking for ways to develop themselves as educators … [Continue reading]

3 Ways Music Instruction in Schools Teaches Grit (and Why Children Need it So Badly Now)

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The "self-esteem movement" in this country is coming to an end.  We have learned that giving a trophy to all kids just for participating hasn't worked, and -- even worse -- has undermined the natural grit that our nation is built upon. We are also … [Continue reading]

Why Music Education is Not Prepared (Yet) to Lead Whole School Reform

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As sure as the sun rises and sets, every few years our government rolls out a new brand of education reform.  Some legislation is epic (NCLB, anyone?); other laws "chip away" at our education system in small chunks. The Every Student Succeeds Act … [Continue reading]

4 Things Holding Middle Schools Back From A Rich Arts Curriculum

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While there are some middle schools in our nation where the arts are a well-established cornerstone of curricula, there are far too many schools that provide little or no offerings.  Although there are many challenges and constraints that can affect … [Continue reading]