I recently attended my granddaughter’s spring orchestra concert and was amazed at the progress of the young middle school and high school students. The program featured the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, who each played three or four selection, in the first half and the high school students in the second half. By presenting the show in this manner we were able to see the gradual increased proficiency of each grade.
Even the sixth graders had progressed far beyond the basic Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star which they performed at their first concert in February. One of their selections included the Can Can by Offenbach. The seventh grade performed Brandenburg Concerto #5 by Bach and the eighth grade did a complicated number titled Variations on a Sea Chanty by Richard Stephan. All selections were performed with precision and I didn’t hear a single squeak or squeal from the strings and all students played in unison under their teacher’s direction. The high school’s performance was flawless and I thought I was listening to a professional production.
The arts are delegated to a second class position
As I watched the performance I couldn’t help but think how sad it is that school districts now feel the need to delegate music and other art programs to a second class position. True, our students need to know the basics in math and science but the arts can add so much more depth to our lives. The students who performed that night thoroughly enjoyed their experience and the audience showed its appreciation by cheering loudly. The other classes showed the same enthusiasm for their fellow performers that you might find at an athletic event.
What music taught the students
I realized those students had learned more than just the basic notes and how to play their instruments. They learned team work by listening and blending their instrument with the others. They learned discipline by watching the director and reacting to her cues. They learned self-confidence by being able to walk onto a stage without passing out. They learned to appreciate other types of music. And, they learned that all types of moods and emotions can be expressed through music from light and lively Bees a Boppin or the Can Can, or the silliness of Adam’s Family Theme to darker moods of Dark Catacombs by O’Laughlin.
I must compliment their teacher, Linda Stieg, who has obviously spent many, many hours working with these young people to bring out the best in them. She told the audience how she has stressed with the students the need for dedication, hard work, and setting goals. These are also tools which will help them in the future.
Music speaks when words fail
I sat there pondering how best to express the thoughts and joy of the evening when I saw a young musician walk by with a bumper sticker attached to his cello case that said Music speaks…when words fail. That sums it up perfectly.
Thank a music teacher
With all these positive elements how can the school systems justify eliminating the arts? A young person needs to experience many different areas in order to grow into a well-rounded individual. Work in the basics is important but they also need to develop their bodies, mind and soul with activities in athletics and the arts added to the core subjects. The next time you sit down to listen to your favorite music be sure to thank a music teacher.