Music is an integral part of our lives. We use music to celebrate milestones such as birthdays, graduations, and weddings. Music is also a salve many of us use to center ourselves through troubling and dark times. Music is one of the most powerful and universal languages. When schools closed two years ago this month, many students lost access to their voice, their opportunity to make music.
School music programs are a unique extracurricular because it is a class during school in which students receive a grade. In middle and high school these elective classes are either vocal or instrumental music with additional before and/or after school responsibilities. Many schools have instruments to loan to students for the school year, but only 42% of teachers and 46% of parents reported their school has enough instruments to support students who want to play.1 And the instruments schools do have are often old and damaged. When Start 1 Spark delivered 14 quality instruments this past November, the music teacher pointed to ten old, damaged instruments the school could not afford to repair. That’s ten additional students unable to play music if their family cannot afford to rent an instrument.
Yet, studies have routinely shown the academic benefit music programs provide and 95% of Americans believe music is part of a well-rounded education.2 Students who participate in instrumental music programs score significantly better on English, math, and science exams than nonmusical students according to a 2019 study by the American Psychological Association.3 However, the cost of participating in instrumental music programs can quickly exceed $1,000, putting such programs out of reach of low-income families. Sadly, it is Title I schools, where students can reap the greatest benefit, that frequently have no music programs.
It is fitting that March is National Music in Our Schools month. Music can have a restorative and uplifting effect on the soul much like Spring does with new life bursting forth. As you emerge from winter hibernation and enjoy the sounds of music, consider how you can uplift a student’s spirit and future with the gift of music.
1, 2 NAMM Foundation, https://www.nammfoundation.org/articles/2014-06-09/how-children-benefit-music-education-schools (28 February 2022)
3 American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2019/06/music-students-score-better (22 February 2022)