Archives for October 2015

What Percentage of Students are “Meant” to be Playing a Musical Instrument in School?

IMG_4672If we take a moment to look at school music programs around our nation, we may be inclined to believe that music instrument instruction is a luxury reserved for a select few.  We may also be holding on to an archaic belief that only a small percentage of students are capable of learning an instrument, or are “naturally talented” in the arts.  But what is the truth of the matter?  Under all the right circumstances, what percentage of children in school are “meant” to stick with a musical instrument?

The fact is, all students would be better served if they learned an instrument as part of school curricula, and I would argue that schools are denying the opportunity for most students to realize a passion and desire to play an instrument throughout their K-12 education.  There are many who argue that there is a large percentage of students who aren’t musically talented or don’t have the desire to play, but I contest that conditions in schools and the way music is valued by our system (and therefore our communities) creates that lack of “desire”.

So how do we level the playing field?  What are some of the “right” circumstances that will allow music to be an essential component of every school day?  Here are some ways that schools can create an appropriate environment for students to enjoy music as part of their core education:

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What is Music and the Arts’ Place in the Real Mission of our Education System?

Kinhaven 2014-377“Our Public Schools will provide an excellent education that prepares our students for college and to earn high paying jobs.” 

I came across this (very real) school mission statement recently.  While it is, in my opinion, egregiously one-dimensional, there are thousands more identical to it out there.

For argument’s sake, let’s pretend that the goal of every school is nothing more than to prepare students for college and “high paying jobs”.  Where do the arts fit in to the plan?  How can parents, teachers, and communities effectively advocate for the arts without sounding too abstract and “hoity-toity” in the face of such black-and-white school mission statements?

Here are a few points of emphasis when it comes to music and arts education as a part of our schools’ missions, and some ways to address the “educating from the neck up” approach of most K-12 schools in our nation:

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Who Actually Quits Musical Instrument Instruction — Children or Their Parents?

Kinhaven 2014-303How many times have we heard from adults that they wish their parents didn’t allow them to quit their musical instrument when they were younger?

There comes a time in a large percentage of music students’ lives when they want to quit their instrument — and more often than not, parents allow them to do it.  But is the child quitting … or is the parent?

I remember wanting to quit the trombone when I was in middle school.  Honestly, it’s hard to remember why.  It could have been peer pressure, boredom, or something else — but I had my mind made up.  I shudder to think of what my life would be like now if my mother had decided to quit as well and give in to my pleas.

Ultimately, it is important to understand that when it comes to music education and other transformative activities that require some grit in order to succeed, most children go through a period of time where they must succeed despite themselves.  They must be encouraged and supported through the tough times, not given a pass.  It is only at a certain point that children — and parents — can make an informed decision to quit their musical instrument, and that point is usually much later, not sooner, than one may think.

Here are a few ways that parents are the ones that quit music instruction, and some thoughts on overcoming the tough times with our children that are bound to occur:

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An Open Letter to All Boards of Education About the Power of Music and the Arts in Schools

Kinhaven 2014-282Dear Board of Education Members:

Usually someone like me is writing to you at the end of the year, pleading for no cuts to be made to our arts programs.  But I decided to be proactive and write this at the beginning of the year — instead focusing on discussing with you ways in which our programs should grow and prosper, not just survive.

Too often, our community is forced to defend the arts in the face of budget season, but we can do better than this.  We need to utilize this “quieter” time of year to not only celebrate the arts in education, but to discuss ways to fully incorporate it into the lives of our children so that we rarely need to discuss dismantling our programs ever again.

I believe it’s important to start this year by reminding ourselves of what the goal of our community is in regards to the education of our children.  In my view, we are charged with at least these three things:

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