Perspective: A Microcosm of MIOSM

Mike Lawson • Commentary • March 12, 2014

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March has been designated as “Music In Our Schools Month” by NAfME, with the support of a host of other like-minded organizations. Some may scoff at this, as for so many teachers and students, the same could be said about every month during the school year. Is it any more meaningful than those ubiquitous, self-declared statements about the “official beverage of summer” or “official snack of hard working people”?

While the parallels between hyperbolic marketing and this initiative may be pretty obvious, MIOSM deserves to be taken seriously for one key reason: participating in these types of broad-based advocacy efforts can have a positive impact in terms of raising awareness about how important music is in the scheme of comprehensive education. In short, as silly as it may sound, MIOSM is fighting the good fight, and every little bit helps. No matter how well supported any one school music program might be, there is always something to gain from positive, creative, inclusive advocacy and marketing about the benefits of the performing arts within school curricula.

As the NAfME website states, “MIOSM and the events surrounding it are the ideal opportunities for increasing awareness of the benefits of high quality music education programs in our nation’s schools.” Convincing anyone any of sort of absolutes about “our nation’s schools” may seem like an awfully tall order, but consider taking this opportunity to try to advance your community’s understanding of the benefits of music education within your school. And beyond a bunch of theoretical “benefits” that may be determined through longitudinal studies by professors in white coats, don’t shy away from getting specific. Point out what you’re actually doing. Share your program’s achievements – big and small – with administrators, parents, and, especially, those students in your feeder schools.  

During the interview with Jim Sammons and Page Howell of Vero Beach (Fla.) High School for this month’s cover feature, Howell pointed out that many kids make up their mind about whether or not they’re going to join the high school band before sixth grade, and trying to change a child’s mind once he or she has decided against can be a futile task. Conversely, Sammons noted that his current band members are often his best recruiters, as they have friends or siblings who hear first-hand about all of the wonderful things happening in the band hall. Don’t leave it just to them, though, to be sharing this critical message.

Former President Gerald Ford is credited as once saying, “Music education opens doors that help children pass from school into the world around them – a world of work, culture, intellectual activity, and human involvement. The future of our nation depends on providing our children with a complete education that includes music.”

I wouldn’t recommend that music educators get too caught up in worrying about the future of our nation, considering that you already make a huge impact just by staying focused on spreading the word about the little things that happen every day in the rehearsal room. It’s only when those fleeting “aha” moments of technical capability or the epiphanies about tone formation, ensemble cohesiveness, or the rewards of diligent practice are compounded across ensembles, schools, districts, counties, and states that a more comprehensive picture of the impact of music education starts to take place.

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