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Music education students have educational advantage

Published May 21. 2011 09:00AM

Dear Editor:

A half an hour before it was scheduled to begin; I heard that the Tamaqua School board was having a meeting. In this day of budget constraints, they were going to be discussing elementary school music education funding as of the topics.

As a parent of a junior in the band, as well as another child in college who is deep in study of music education and performance, I have an interest in the music program, but no real vested interest in the elementary school funding of music considering the age of my sons.

I have a lot of faith in the people we have elected for our board and don't make it a habit of attending. In fact it was the first time I actually have ... I came to vent.

First thing I noticed is that they have patience, sitting there listening to the rants of citizens and parents like me, all with our own sacred cows. I had no prepared statements and so just rambled on without really knowing if I made any sense or was concise at all. I felt it would be a good idea to put my thoughts in writing, mostly for my own benefit.

My sacred cow at this meeting was the fate of the elementary school music funding.

Recently, I read a report about the shortening attention span of we Americans. The fact that I can't remember where I read it proves the point. We are in an age of instant messaging, chat, text and e-mail. Our students, according to this study, have lost the ability to plan ahead any farther than a text that says something like "meet me in library in 5". We are at the point where sitting down with a book that takes an hour is torture. Since we can no longer plan ahead, we cannot even see ahead. This is where I believe students who are involved in early music education have a great educational advantage.

It has been well studied how music gives a head start in math structure skills as well as comprehension in other subjects. Learning how to read music, to me who can't, is the same as a foreign language, so I see a benefit there as well.

Music ed also gives a sense of structure as well as the ability to work toward a common goal with other students, all reaffirmed when they see their parents stand and cheer. It also lets them immediately hear the consequences of not following instructions, or following them poorly, usually with disastrous results.

To me, most importantly, it creates discipline that takes time to see results. It grows the attention span. It makes students more studious and industrious. As a result, I believe it brings up test scores, not just for the students involved, but as an average for the district in total.

Why I believe it must start in the elementary level is because of the time and discipline involved. The earlier a good habit is picked up, the longer through life it lasts. This is true with the study skills brought on by music study. The results are also much more immediate. They can be seen by students long before they enter the work force as adults.

If the music education were to wait until Junior High, I believe it would die on the vine. At that age, looking back 35 years, I remember being much more interested in learning how to pick up a girlfriend than in picking up a tuba. The good habits have to be instilled long before the pressures of adolescence.

I would like to thank the Tamaqua school board for giving me the opportunity to rant, but mostly I would like to thank Mr. Potlunas, Mr Beltz, Mr Buglio and the others who have instilled in my children the discipline I see that make me proud …

As I sit here, my son received a text saying that the elementary music program has survived. So once again, I salute the board.

David Miller

West Penn

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