There have been some amazing quotes about music over the years, but my favourite comes from Victor Hugo. The famous French poet once said: “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.“
I can identify with his message as there have been several times where a song has left me completely speechless. It might be the lyrics, the melody, the emotion in a singer’s voice, the haunting sounds of a violin, or even the melancholy tones of a trumpet. Whatever the case, sometimes the power of music is simply too hard to describe.
Most people I know love listening to music, but not everyone is brave enough to try and play it. In High School it is not uncommon to hear about boys who learn the guitar so that they can ‘get the chicks’. This was never the motivation for me because I am definitely on the introvert end of the spectrum, and the idea of performing in front of others gave me anxiety!
Irrespective of my fear of performing in public, I still wanted to learn an instrument — so when I was ten years old, I got started.
Back then it was the drums that captured my imagination, so my parents bought me a second hand kit. I had weekly lessons and practised daily. In all likelihood the noise must have driven my neighbours crazy — but I was having fun, while obtaining valuable skills like rhythm and timing. I’m certain these have helped me in other aspects of my life.
I’ve often wondered about the impact music had on other kids, so who better to ask than a certified music teacher.
I was recently lucky enough to chat with Kristi White from Pensacola, Florida. Kristi has quite the CV, with over 13 years experience teaching and co-ordinating music programs in schools across the USA. She also provides private piano tuition and vocal training.
“Music speaks to students in a way that other subjects cannot; to put it simply, music has the ability to keep some uninterested kids in school. Many studies show that involvement in music leads to positive personal, social, and motivational outcomes. From my experience, students in the arts build up their confidence and feel at ease expressing their ideas. Interestingly, these students rarely display aggression or anti-social behaviour“.
I was surprised to hear that that music was the sole subject keeping some kids in school. I did some research of my own and can confirm that Ms White is spot on.
According to a study by the Centre for Music Research at Florida State University, students at risk of not successfully completing their high school educations cite their participation in the arts as a major reason for staying in school. Factors that positively affected the motivation of these students included a supportive environment that promotes constructive acceptance of criticism and one where it is safe to take risks.
So what about the introverts like me? The ones who have a thirst for it but are hesitant to perform in front of others?
Ms White had the following to say:
“I’ve had the great privilege of witnessing some of my students quietly begin the school year reserved and closed tightly in the proverbial cocoon – only to emerge as confident social butterflies by the year’s end. Many even credit their musical studies with their new-found approach to school and life.”
In my chat with Kristi, I was disappointed to learn about a worrying trend of music programs being neglected in schools around the world.
“In recent years, I’ve witnessed many schools completely abolishing their music education programs. This is a colossal mistake! Schools are losing not only an enriching subject, but a subject that can enhance students’ lives and education.”
It seems this has been the narrative for a while across the Western world and has played out with some regularity for decades — economies boom and bust, school budgets get squeezed and music and the other arts take the first hit.
This needs to change and change quickly. Music is a gift, it brings people together and clearly places our youth on the right path, giving them the tools to cope with many of life’s challenges. It makes absolutely no sense that some schools are taking it out of their syllabus.
Imagine having nothing to sing or dance to?
Let’s ensure we never live in a world like that.