Archives for December 2015

3 Reasons Why Now — More Than Ever — America Needs Music in its Schools

Kinhaven 2014-319For the first time ever, music is now cited in federal statute as a stand-alone subject in schools.

The timing could not be better.  After all, provision for the arts in school curricula should be a no-brainer requirement of a well-rounded education.  However, just because federal law is changing does not mean that schools are going to immediately adjust their schedules accordingly.

Our information age has become central (for better or worse) in shaping and influencing every waking moment of children’s daily lives – mostly toward a lifetime of consumption and a de-emphasis on creative thought.  But if schools enable children to not only have ideas about the world, but to be active participants in it, we will be able to effectively develop a range of qualities and skills in our youth that will empower them to operate in this new age as agents of change instead of apathetic onlookers.

Our society desperately needs to value more than just academic abilities.  Our children have unlimited potential and so much more to offer than just good test grades.  Music exemplifies these other capacities — intuition, practical skills and creativity, to name a few.  Make no mistake:  all of our children’s growth will be stunted without music in their lives as part of their school day. If schools do not appropriate the proper resources to music education, our new federal law will do our children little good.  And “guided resources” have less to do with actual finances and more to do with changing a long-established negative attitude towards the arts as peripheral to a well-rounded education.

Here are three reasons we need music in our country’s schools now more than ever before:

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A Lost Art: The Power of Solitude Through Music Instruction in Schools

DSC00827As a public school music supervisor, I saw firsthand the shift in our education system toward an emphasis on “constant student engagement” in the classroom.  To this day, there still is this push to keep students busy from the moment class begins to the dismissal bell.  Teachers are worried about the possibility of moments where students don’t have something specific to “do” and aren’t producing something concrete — especially when a supervisor walks in.

Ultimately, there is a huge problem with this education model.  Schools have become too concerned with the business of keeping students busy and labeling it “engagement.”  In a culture of immediate gratification, smartphones, social media, and streaming everything, I believe we are perpetuating a fast pace of life that will prevent our children from thinking slowly and critically, and hinder their ability to think and reflect independently on any topic.  Students expect to be put to work at every moment, and don’t get used to what it really takes to learn something challenging.  Even homework is an exercise in multi-tasking alongside listening to music, watching TV, and streaming shows.

Often it takes silent effort, reflection and mindful thought to truly learn something — habits of mind that are difficult to qualify as “engagement” on an observation report or a report card.

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Why Scheduling More Performances Will Save Your Child’s Musical Life (and Your Music Program)

Kinhaven 2014-76We are a few months into a new school year.  Has your child had a performance yet?

When students open their instrument case for the first time, they are excited to begin their musical journey.  They also want to become good at playing their instrument.  But it doesn’t take long for most students to realize that creating beautiful sounds on an instrument isn’t as easy as it looks — and it’s going to take some time and hard work to get where they want to be.

Some students enjoy daily practice (I didn’t), while others struggle to work consistently.  Issues between extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation comes into play with young students almost immediately when they begin studying an instrument in school.  Whatever a student’s relationship with practice might be, there’s one thing that will motivate them to practice intensely: an upcoming performance.

There is nothing more powerful than for a music teacher to stand on a podium on the first day of class and say, “We have a performance in four weeks, so let’s get to work!”

Here are 4 reasons that scheduling more performances will extend your child’s interest in music and help grow a powerful culture of learning in their music program:

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