All students should have access to a quality music education that encourages them to explore music as a system of meaning. Music is an essential aspect of the human experience across cultures and permeates modern life. Everyone encounters music on a daily basis, but not all people actively engage it. Music education teaches students to actively engage in music, either through active performance practices or through informed listening.
Though there are many non-musical benefits available to students in music ensembles, the experience of performance is inherently valuable. Music has been an incredibly powerful force in the lives of countless students. Bennet Reimer and David Elliot, music education philosophers, theorize that music is the only way to access certain musical cognitive functioning in the brain. Furthermore, music is one of the few experiences that actively engages both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Offering students meaningful performance experiences in a variety of music styles will help young and adolescent students develop into intelligent and competent adults.
School music ensembles offer one of the few opportunities students have for a corporate music-making experience. Though some students may have the privilege of receiving private instruction on an instrument, making music cooperatively with peers teaches students to work together as a team, while retaining individuality. By encouraging ensemble participation, students will learn how to work together for a common goal in which their identity is valued and contributes to a unified final product.
When considering Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, music is listed among the original seven. Interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences (which are intricately linked with Goleman’s theory of emotional intelligence) are also developed and honed in music education in a way that is not accessible in other academic or extracurricular areas. If our schools hope to develop young adults who are ready to enter the workforce and citizenry confidently, music is an essential part of a curriculum that will develop interpersonal, intrapersonal, and emotion intelligences within the context of a musical ensemble.
I believe that music educators should choose music that they believe to be educationally appropriate and offers the students a meaningful and emotive experience. This music should be selected not only from the familiar repertoire of western art music, but also from multicultural and popular music sources. All music has the potential for intelligent, insightful reflection. It is the responsibility of the educator to choose music that will best help their students grow both musically and personally.
This transforming cultural experience has a vital place in our schools. Without music, students lose an exciting connection to the past and to the future. Without music, some students will not be able to access their creative faculties. Without music, students will be less emotionally intelligent. With music education, students engage in music and grow daily in musical, emotional, and personal goals. Every school will benefit from an active, engaging music education program.