• Come About! Music Ed Advocacy in Changing Times

    Laurie Schell | June 12, 2021In SBO’s June issue, Laurie Schell encourages music education advocates to navigate the shifting winds buffeting today’s music programs and learn how to change tack with strategic planning, coalition, and relationship building. Read More...
  • Recruiting Students: Back to Basics

    Laurie Schell | May 4, 2021Programs that were robust in pre-pandemic years may have only a fraction of returning students, and new students may be hard to reach. How do we get these students back? In SBO’s May 2021 issue, music and arts education advocate Laurie Schell shares some insights. Read More...
  • Forecasting Music Education: Down the Rabbit Hole

    Laurie Schell | April 6, 2021Many believe that some type of virtual learning is here to stay. That can be a good thing if it challenges our preconceptions of what music instruction “should” look like, writes Laurie Schell. Read More...
  • Study Indicates Americans Believe Music Ed Preps Students for Careers

    Mike Lawson | September 23, 2014

    Calling it the “Glee Effect,” The Harris Poll®, a Nielsen Company, has released new findings that show the majority of Americans believe music education prepares students for future careers and problem-solving. And the numbers responding favorably about music education have risen significantly since the original 2007 Harris Poll on music education, commissioned by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), then known as MENC.

  • Music Study Enhances Brain Function In At-Risk Children

    Mike Lawson | September 3, 2014

    Research shows that two years of musical training in community music programs improves auditory brain function

    A new Northwestern University study funded by the NAMM Foundation provides the first direct evidence that a community music program for at-risk youth has a biological effect on children’s developing nervous systems. Two years of music lessons improved the precision with which the children’s brains distinguished similar speech sounds, a neural process that is linked to language and reading skills.

    “This research demonstrates that community music programs can literally ‘remodel’ children’s brains in a way that improves sound processing, which could lead to better learning and language skills,” said study lead author Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles professor of communication sciences in the School of Communication and of neurobiology and physiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern.

  • Perspective: GetBanded

    Mike Lawson | June 16, 2014

    In the January 2014 issue of SBO, I wrote an editorial titled “The Music Ecosystem.” The idea behind this was to take a moment to consider the many people who contribute to a healthy school music program. These include the director and school music staff, parents and boosters, private instructors, retailers and repair techs who provide and service instruments and accessories, those product manufacturers who are continually innovating in order to meet the needs of student musicians and school programs, administrators who manage funding, staffing, and scheduling, and even corporate donors and sponsors.

    Shortly after that issue was published, I found myself at the NAMM Show, the annual music products industry convention in Anaheim, California.

  • NAMM’s 2014 D.C. Fly-In

    Mike Lawson | May 22, 2014

    Coalition Descends on the Capitol to Lobby Congress About Making Music Education Available to All Children

    The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), music industry leaders, educators, and musicians preached to Congressional leaders about the importance of providing quality, comprehensive music education to all children during NAMM’s annual D.C. Fly-In, which began on May 21. The event allows the music industry to perpetuate the vision of a world in which every child has a deep desire to learn music and a recognized right to be taught – and in which every adult is a passionate champion and defender of that right. This year’s Fly-In, the largest ever, included a day of service at Savoy Elementary, advocacy training at the Kennedy Center, a celebration of Turnaround Arts at the Library of Congress, and more than 100 meetings with Members of Congress.

    Sixty-five NAMM members, STEAM Caucus co-chair Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, auditory learning expert Dr. Nina Kraus, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith, former New York Yankee, Latin GRAMMY-nominated musician Bernie Williams, and actor Doc Shaw fortified the tenth annual event, which reinforces the importance of music education for all children.

  • From the Trenches: 2013 Holiday Wish List

    Mike Lawson | December 16, 2013

    My Annual Holiday Wish List for Santa


    Dear Santa,

    How are you? I hope you and the missus have had a fabulous year! How are the reindeer? Great, you say? Things here in the United States have been, let’s just say, interesting. There has been a lot of activity in education reform, work on the new standards for arts education, and some brilliant innovations in music education. We lost a few good people along the way, as well. Anyway, you know why I am writing. I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. After a very careful review, I have assembled my annual gift list so all those who have earned their place here – both naughty and nice – may be rewarded appropriately.

  • A New Voice, the Same Mission: Eric Martin, Music For All’s new president and CEO

    Mike Lawson | October 13, 2010

  • Minnesota Music Educators Association president Cindy Shirk

    Mike Lawson | August 13, 2010

    Music education in Minnesota faces a host of rather daunting challenges, some unique and others all-too-common in this day and age. While the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" is middle of the pack in terms of state population and size, nearly 60 percent of Minnesotans live in and around the Twin Cities, meaning that state legislatures must balance the needs of a dense urban population with those of residents living in sparsely inhabited rural areas. As the consequences of high unemployment and budget shortfalls continue to hit schools nationwide, SBO recently got in touch with Cindy Shirk, band director at Dakota Meadows Middle School in Mankato, Minn. and president of the Minnesota Music Educators Association, who shed some light on the well-being of music education in her state and shared a few of the current initiatives being undertaken by the MMEA.

    School Band & Orchestra: How would you describe the current atmosphere for school music programs in the state of Minnesota?

    Cindy Shirk: At our MMEA spring board meeting a year ago (May, 2009), we asked each board member present (about 25) to give an update about the current status of his or her school music program. At that time, at least half of the board indicated cuts or reductions to their programs. During the current year, it seems that the problem has increased. While I don't have exact figures, I think nearly all schools in our state have been affected in some way by the current economy.

  • The Real “Crisis” in This Budget Crisis

    Mike Lawson | July 1, 2010

    There is no doubt that our schools are facing a budget crisis; virtually 100 percent of the nation's schools are currently up against the same problem. But any crisis is also a potential opportunity. In this case, the opportunity is for school boards and administrators to take a fresh look at our educational goals, educational policies, and educational practices, and to re-evaluate what is truly important and what is not, to decide what truly works and what does not. And then, it's an opportunity to find new and creative ways to ensure the best possible education for our children. In some cases, it's even an opportunity to reassess and re-define what comprises "the best possible education for our children."

    What is it we want our children to learn in school? We see many straight-A students unable to correlate their knowledge to real-life experiences, unable to adapt to our changing and sometimes scary world. So, we look for ways to make our children's education "relevant." Technology is "relevant," math and science are "relevant," we say. But then, the nation's top companies say that the characteristics they desire most in future employees, the skills they consider most relevant to real-world success, are well-developed communication and interpersonal skills, a willingness to work to achieve excellence, and the ability to solve problems in creative and flexible ways in other words, a totally different skill set.

    Interestingly enough, these characteristics so sought after by top corporations are all things that are fostered and developed in the music classroom, which is also one of the first places administrators look to make cuts in times of "crisis." A common knee-jerk reaction to budget cuts is to look first at eliminating programs like the arts, which are often deemed "extracurricular" by uninformed administrators, educators, and parents alike. According to the ESEA (Elementary & Secondary Education Act), the arts are defined as a "core academic subject." According to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, they play a significant role in children's development and their learning process. Yet music programs are constantly under threat of elimination, in part to help balance the educational budgets, and also in part to put more money into increasing test scores in reading, math and science.

  • NYSSMA’s Susan Weber: New York, New York

    Mike Lawson | October 9, 2009

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