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Before I get into some of the benefits of music education, I need to provide a disclaimer about myself. I have been involved in music since 5th grade when I joined my middle school choir. In 6th grade I auditioned for and was accepted into the New Jersey Youth Chorus (NJYC), which I stayed in until 10th grade. While in middle school, I also participated in the band, playing the alto saxophone, something which I fully expected to continue in high school, but never got the chance due to scheduling conflicts. In high school, I was involved in many of the school’s select choirs, as well as County, Region, and All-State honor choirs from freshman until senior year. I co-founded and directed “Men in Black A Cappella,” West Morris Mendham High School’s male a cappella group, for three years and I was elected Choir President for my senior year. I now participate in The Citadel Cadet Chorale and have loads of fun performing and rehearsing with them.
I can’t even remember all of the opportunities and experiences I had with these groups, but here are a few of my favorite memories:
1. Competing at Hershey Park
2. Going on tour with NJYC in Italy for ten days
3. Performing at NJ Performing Arts Center
4. Performing in Carnegie Hall
5. Performing at the ACDA’s Eastern Convention
6. Singing in over twenty different languages and countless genres
7. Running a musical group like a (profitable) business
8. Helping to orchestrate an invitational with a headliner (Street Corner Symphony)
9. Participating in and then running a stage crew for several different productions
10. Singing on a street corner with my closest friends
11. Making friends that will last a lifetime
12. Making a difference in peoples’ lives every performance
Since there are so many, I’m going to break down the benefits of music education into two aspects: emotional and practical.
I have interviewed dozens of current and past music students and educators in order to gain insight into others’ experiences with music education. I have come to one overarching conclusion: across the board, music simply has the power to bring joy into peoples’ lives. Peter Potash, a junior at West Morris Mendham High School (WMMHS), says music has helped him “discover the true beauty” of some music. “When I sing these pieces,” he says, “I feel better about my life no matter what I had been feeling before.” Paul Brodhead, a sophomore at WMMHS, says, “It has given me an outlet to relieve my stress and anger” and Brian Jeffers, a freshman, agrees, “It cools me down if I am in a bad mood.”
Dr. Jason Vodicka, Assistant Professor of Music at Susquehanna University, says he sees students developing countless abilities, including “The ability to think and feel deeply, talk about feelings, perform in front of a large group of people (makes giving a 5 minute speech seem simple!), and integrate heart, mind, and body.” Both students and educators can see the emotional benefits of music.
I turned primarily to the music educators on this one, asking them what skills they have seen students develop as a result of music education. Patty Danner, WMMHS Choir Director, pointed at teamwork and performance. “Perhaps we are training professional musicians, but we may also be training managers who will be running meetings, or public speakers. Most professions require teamwork and the understanding it is in everyone's interest to develop the entire team.” The Director of Choral Music at The Citadel, Nancy Lefter, lists “concentration, communication, and camaraderie” and retired West Morris Central HS Choir Director Dr. Vincent Rufino includes “Divergent thinking, decoding a graphic language, developing an aesthetic sense, self-confidence, fine motor skills, and a historical perspective outside the venue of wars and conquests.” Retired music teacher Karen Johnson lists “cooperative collaboration, articulation, discipline, memorization skills, and appreciation of all arts.” This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the benefits, although it is interesting that educators trained and working in different places all see similar effects on their students.
All-in-all, there are many clinically proven benefits to music education, as well as those observed first-hand by teachers and students in the field. Music education has given me so much and has provided me with skills I continue to use today.
with both emotional and practical benefits.