There has been a lot of talk about the need for good musical programs. In fact, Nicola Benneti, an award-winning violist, argues that all youngsters should be exposed to classical music, regardless of whether they want to.

Saying the concept of letting children do exactly what they want in other areas of education is “alien”, she admitted she is “bemused” by the current approach to teaching art and culture.
“It actually really upsets me when people say: ‘Kids hate listening to a symphony, why would we do that to them?’”

Nicola Benedetti
Violinist Nicola Benedetti Photo: PA

…“I think, hang on a minute, if you were to turn round and say to a kids: ‘Would you like to play video games or would you like to have a maths lesson?’ Of course, they’re going to go for the video games.” Via The Telegraph

She reasons that in other areas of education, the idea that children can do exactly what they want is non-existent and ‘alien’.

The child’s approval is not sought when talking about math, science, history of English. But when music is being discussed, there seems to be a need to expose children to it only when they instantly love it.

As a result, it’s the children that miss out on all the benefits that classical music has to offer.

Benedetti is involved with the Sistema Scotland music education and its Big Noise Orchestra PHOTO: Marc Marnie
Benedetti is involved with the Sistema Scotland music education and its Big Noise Orchestra PHOTO: Marc Marnie

“You’re not just developing concentration and focus in order to try to understand the music,” she said. “You are also getting something that has life lessons, has beauty, has uplift and joy and sorrow and tragedy – all the things that you will have to deal with in your life at some point.” Via The Telegraph

On his part, Jonathan Leigh demonstrates how the influence of music is particularly vital in today’s pressured world. He argues that this influence is hidden in its immediate and durable impact.

Leigh takes the example of choirs, describing how their key feature is their diversity.

Jonathan Leigh: The key feature of choirs is their diversity Photo: Alamy

They can represent both genders, any age or nationality, irrespective of background. The only requirement is a willingness to cast shyness aside and sing.
Through osmosis the confidence needed to partake grows “within” every eager participant. All differences are buried in a sublime recognition of the immediate present and what is actually happening now, not some life affecting distant target. Via The Telegraph

He further argues that these benefits are immeasurable, but are instantly recognizable in a good choir that naturally appeals to an audience. This in spite of the fact that singing is often considered ‘uncool’.

In a more ethereal sense, singing is an influence for a lifetime. Sometimes it has been derided as not cool but the real truth is that it is something beyond and altogether different; a gift from nowhere. Via The Telegraph

He also describes singing, when well rehearsed, as the ultimate in sustained concentration. This is a skill that is particularly lacking in today’s world, where there is a greater tendency toward multitasking, rushing and stressed over-communication.

One voice: the Lincoln Cathedral Choir has both boys’ and girls’ sections

Our great national heritage of singing is an enterprise too easily derided. It is an art form of undefinable benefit, good for respiration and both physical and mental alertness, a gradual builder of self assurance within the comforting envelope of belonging to a mutually dependent team.

…Lastly, it provides an osmotic absorption of a precise skill set at a time when the teenage brain is like a sponge. As such, the imprint lasts a lifetime, something every cathedral chorister knows. Via The Telegraph

Recent evidence has shown a dramatic decline of singing in primary schools in the UK as a result of teachers focusing their efforts to coming on top league tables. Additionally, a diminishing number of teachers can even play a musical instrument.

music teacher
Image Courtesy of Flickr

Leigh partly blames teachers for the decline in the school choir tradition, referring to it as a ‘desperate shame’. He argues that teachers are forced to focus on meeting performance targets in order to stay on top of league tables, so they disregard school choir activities that would demand immense concentration and a lot of extra time.

“This isn’t a measurable part of the curriculum so people have to step outside the norm of all those quantifiable [measures] of which we are answerable and make sure that this happens to a very high level. Teachers are more pressured to meet these other targets.” Via The Telegraph

Leigh’s solution is for schools to work harder to get young people excited about joining school choirs by marketing the fact that it’s a great attribute to have, as well as the advantage of becoming a great team player, which benefits them in all other aspects of education.

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Stop “Defending” Music Education

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I really wish people would stop “defending” music education like this.

I get that music programs are under intense pressure, that all across America they are sitting hunched over with one nervous eye on a hooded figure stalking the halls with a big budgetary ax. Music programs are watching administrators race by, frantically chasing test scores and ignoring music in schools. So it may seem like a natural step to go running after the testing crowd hollering, “Hey, I can help with that, too.” Via Huffington Post

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At New Haven Community Schools, we’re seeing firsthand how music is helping our students learn and achieve. Via Freep