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Music in Our Lives: Despite proven clinical benefits of music in public education, some schools are cutting funding

Perhaps Albus Dumbledore was onto something when he spoke the words, “Ah, music, a magic beyond all we do here.” After all, most of us understand that music holds a power beyond what we really know how to describe. We play it in our cars, listen on our way to classes and we are drawn to live performances everywhere from local cafés to arenas packed with people. Music unites us, it inspires us and it defines our identity.

But music as we know it is under attack. It’s not under attack because of changing styles, untalented artists, problems within the music industry or anything that people like to complain about when talking about music as it directly impacts them.

Music is under attack in a much more real, fundamental way. It is being cruelly defunded and ripped from school curriculums, despite studies demonstrating an association between academic performance and participation in music education courses. There are also experimental studies that demonstrate positive effects of learning a musical instrument on students’ self-esteem.

Even more to the point, however, is the way that we talk about including programs in schools. Things like math, science, history and writing are considered “core subjects” that are necessities. Students are expected to take these because it boosts their test scores and it’s the kind of knowledge that we value in the education system.

But if we’re going to judge the value of our programs based on reducing all of a student’s abilities, intelligence and creativity to a number, we’re going to lose a lot of opportunities. We shouldn’t have to cite test scores in order to justify keeping a program.

Instead, we need to take a look at the specific effects of cutting music programs.

Musicians don’t just grow on trees. They aren’t born singing. Much like learning a sport, music is a combination of talent that is nurtured by hard work. Without teaching kids music, we won’t be teaching the values of perseverance, creativity and spiritual/emotional intelligence. And we’ll miss out on a great deal of kids with a hidden talent that is never nurtured by someone who can recognize it and build it. Imagine your favorite musician never getting the chance to take lessons when they were a kid.

The point is simple: missing out on the chance to teach students music will have devastating effects. Music doesn’t just help kids perform better in school, it does so while also teaching them how to express emotion, how to find creative solutions and how to put in the work to achieve goals. It gives them a sense of purpose, and it encourages community and inclusiveness. We can’t afford to lose that from our schools.

Let’s stop judging the necessity of our programs by the bubbles on a scantron, and let’s start realizing how much kids accomplish when they’re given opportunities to succeed at things they love.

Rhys Ivans, www.thepostathens.com, www.msidallas.com