The 2019-2020 school year is right around the corner, and with it comes new and exciting opportunities for students across the Philadelphia region and beyond. Unfortunately, for millions of students across the United States, budget cuts to art programs in schools means limited or no access to important subjects, including music education.
To get a better idea of just why music education is so important, to children of all ages, we spoke to Jemma Malkasian, an orchestra and guitar ensemble director at Norristown Area High School. “Music education is important because it’s different,” she explains. “The Greeks believed that a well-rounded education was not complete without music education and this notion continued for centuries.”
She says that somewhere along the way, this crucial part of learning got left behind, which has been detrimental to students. “There is a direct correlation between lowered student achievement and cutting the arts from school,” she says, adding, “Young brains learn faster and retain better. We should be teaching some form of music in every elementary school.”
But it’s not just what music does for the brain, Malkasian says, rather what being an ensemble can do for personal growth and social skills. “Music trains you to focus on a singular goal and reach it with true, hard work,” Malkasian says. “It forces you to listen back to your own work critically and make adjustments based on what you hear. Music demands that you think and perform on an extremely high level.”
Ensemble settings, she says, can teach children to work with others towards a united goal. A music classroom can also teach timeliness, manners, and even dress codes. Some other benefits? It can get some kids out of their shells and allow them to bond with others in a creative and caring environment. “It helps you build lifelong friends,” Malkasian says of music classes.
With all of the undeniable advantages of having music education as a curriculum in schools, it’s frustrating to know that some students won’t be given the opportunity to grow and learn. “The unfortunate bottom line is that everything costs money,” she says.
Whether you have a loved one in school, or you simply want to help kids of all ages have a chance at an education that includes the arts, Malkasian says that if you have the money to spare, you can consider donating it to public school programs. Another way you can help as a music lover and supporter, is to donate old instruments you can’t use anymore.
But the most important thing you can do, Malkasian says, is to simply show up: whether that’s at your local elementary school, middle school, and/or high school. “Go to school concerts and make the audience as big as it can be and congratulate those kids on a feat most could never accomplish.” With that encouragement it will show the school districts how much these programs matter, and reassure young artists that their musical endeavors are very much worthwhile.