Budget cuts to government funding of music education seem to be a global problem – at least for developed countries. Like many headlines talking of the music cut in western countries, South Australia is no different:

I read in despair reports about the shutting down of advanced music courses at colleges and universities in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. Last year I was devastated to learn that the contemporary music program at Noarlunga TAFE had been killed off as this was where I had studied music in the 1990’s and worked as a guitar tutor until about 2002. More recently, as InDaily reports, the University of Adelaide is looking to reduce its music teaching staff and cut some of the music programs offered… Via Where Words Fail

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Tireless efforts have been made to justify the invaluable nature a musical education offers students. Unfortunately, there are those that will only consider the value of anything in monetary terms. Even more unfortunate is that these are in many cases the people that make final decisions concerning government support for music education.

People ask: ‘What is the economic rationale for governments to fund tertiary music education?’ Via Where Words Fail

Grant Hall, the founder of League Cultural Diplomacy, takes up the challenge of convincing individuals whose reasoning for any government funding is based on the monetary returns of such funding. He provides a business case, discussing why governments should fund music education.

As any tertiary music student knows, the real benefits of music education to a society have nothing to do with money, but there are many who don’t understand this, which too often includes some of the bean-counters who hold decision making positions within governments. Via Where Words Fail

  1. Music students pursue a wide range of economically viable careers

Music students gain a wide range of skills that help then thrive in different careers – not just performing music. In fact, most music students do not become full-time musicians. Instead, they pursue other forms of employment that serve various growth industries that directly impact their local economies.

Broadly speaking, most music graduates will fall into one of three categories:

Those whose main income is derived from:

  1. Performing music (professional full-time musicians)
  2. Working in a field related to music
  3. Working in a field unrelated to music

In South Australia, most of the economic benefits that stem from music graduates are from those who fall under categories two and three and not from those who went on to become full-time professional performers in category one. Via Where Words Fail

  1. Music events provide revenue to local governments
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Grant highlights the fact that uncultured people often complain bitterly about how music festivals waste a lot of money that would be better spent building roads and hospitals. However, he argues that such music events are in fact a great source of revenue for local government.

…South Australia’s festivals contribute tens of millions of dollars to the state’s economy each year, bringing money from outside of the state into the state so that hospitals and new roads can be built. What’s more, the government uses SA’s festivals as a selling point to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and companies use the Festivals to attract staff from outside of the state. Via Where Words Fail

He points out that music education should be supported because it’s music graduates that make such events a success.

At any given performance in SA at anytime you would be likely to find a music graduate either on-stage, doing the sound, managing the event, promoting it or reviewing it.

Without music graduates, Adelaide’s festivals and year-round arts scene, so important to the state’s economy and image, would be seriously diminished. Via Where Words Fail

  1. A musical education enhances innovation, a vital element in the modern workplace
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Music students develop vital skills in creative problem solving. Although the same may be said of other courses, the effect is more pronounced when studying music or any other creative art. Leading corporations today are looking for innovative employees as the best approach to improving productivity, and in most cases, music graduates beat their counterparts hands down.

As I’ve shown, music graduates have high levels of ‘social intelligence, technical ability and creative intelligence’ (or what most people simply call ‘creativity’), that have been learned through practical experience… You can get a business degree without any level of social intelligence, technical ability or creativity, but you’ll never earn a music degree without all three. Via Where Words Fail

Although the real benefits of music education have nothing to do with economics, it would be distressing for passionate music education stakeholders to have to justify music education funding in economic terms. Even so, music education still proves itself even when viewed through the narrow lens of money.

State government funding for music education is not charity; it’s not about giving a bit of money so little Johnny can take piano lessons at the Con, nor is it a “luxury”. As I’ve shown, it’s a solid investment that pays real economic dividends. Every music grad that I keep up with is doing well, earning a living and contributing to the broader society. Via Where Words Fail

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