Some Thoughts on Music Education
  • WEDNESDAY, MAY 23, 2012

  • Posted by: Joe Puglisi




This post is brought to you by Chase -- a strong supporter of TRANS4M Boyle Heights, a program that provides multiple social services that address Boyle Heights' particular needs.

Learn more here.


How can something as vague as "music" make a difference to our neighborhoods in need?

Last week, a friend of mine took a leave of absence from New York City to attend his old band teacher's birthday party in Massachusetts. It got me thinking about my own experience with the music department in my high school, and how those teachers were incredibly influential in my formative years not only in interests and pursuit of talent, but in building character and integrity through opportunities to become a leader of others in musical organizations. Although college is a time to find one's self in the brush, primary and secondary schools (and extracurricular activities) helped us choose a defined path through the forest we call life. Music, for many, is an escape from the mundane tasks of being a child in any sort of familial situation, to play an instrument, to create something beautiful, isolated from other trifles.

When you're older, it's easier to zoom out and see just how varied the social map is across America. Music education used to be a cornerstone of public schooling (or I thought so, coming from a then-middle class suburb in New York)-- but today, in my old district and I'd imagine for most of America, funding is being slashed for these music programs. These days, in the media and in film and TV, music education is sometimes stereotyped as either only for the privileged, or their social opposite, the financially impoverished and/or oppressed. In reality, recorded music still has a marked impact on children of all backgrounds-- but how many of these are encouraged to chase something beyond the passive role of listener?

Luckily music seems to play a key part in the revitalization of neighborhoods across America, whether incidental or direct. It's clear that musical events play a significant role in the revitalization of culture and population in a neighborhood like the Williamsburg Waterfront in Brooklyn, especially when traditional gentrification fails (where hi-rise condos failed to attract new tenants due to the recession, but Music Hall of Williamsburg almost single handedly reinvented North 6th Street, and a variety of cultural events, including McCarren Park "pool party" concerts, have driven an enormous amount of foot traffic over the past six years). Sometimes musicians opt to give back to their place of origin. Chase Bank recently teamed up with musician Will.i.am to create TRANS4M Boyle Heights, a charity bringing social services and opportunities to Will's old neighborhood, with a focus on the schools. I think this is key.

The most important tenant of music as a tool for social revitalization is its function as a pastime for the kids of a given community in need of something to do, and an aide to their growth and development. VH1's 'Save The Music' charity has an exhaustive list of statistics supporting various claims, that music education enhances congnitive development, the brain's ability to think logically, academic success, and preparation for the work force. That's not including the relationships students develop with teachers, who can often steer kids away from the temptations of dilapidated social environments in favor of creative exploration and positive experiences.

No one is debating the importance of music education in schools, but its influence is still wavering, despite charitable efforts from a variety of organizations interested in financial aid for schools. I'm hoping that we see more programs like TRANS4M Boyle Heights (which, although it does not explicitly have a music education component, correctly identifies the schools as a good place to start with support), and that they remember music education will help provide a brighter future for the kids. Will.i.am certainly knows it.

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