It is fitting that Mr. Rogers Day falls in March along with Music in Our Schools celebrations. Mr. Rogers used music to teach us how to process our emotions and connect with each other as children. As reflected in this year’s national theme of Music is All of Us, music continues to be the most powerful way to bring us together.
Music, from its earliest forms to now, has brought us together to mark celebrations, passings, rituals, and milestones. It was music that continued to bring us together throughout the pandemic with concerts in outdoor park settings, soloists performing on porches with neighbors sitting in driveways, vocalists singing from windows and balconies, and all of us banging pots and pans for healthcare workers at the end of shifts. A Verywell Mind survey found, “One in five readers said they used music as a way to connect with others during the pandemic.”1
The social isolation of virtual school worsened a looming mental health crisis among our youth with recent CDC data showing over 40% of youth felt persistently sad or hopeless. This sadness and hopelessness is manifesting itself in higher rates of youth violence against each other or themselves. Expanding access to music programs in schools can combat these depressive feelings and violent outbursts. As reported by ASCAP, research shows that making music can help release emotion, decrease anxiety, and improve overall mental health.2
Unfortunately, acquiring instruments for music students is costly and music expenditures were slashed in the wake of budget cuts due to the 2007 Great Recession. Instruments available before budget cuts have aged out of use further reducing a school’s inventory to offer students who can’t afford the purchase cost of a new instrument or high monthly rental fees. This financial barrier prevents many students, especially in Title 1 schools, from accessing an academic class that not only supports their education but also improves their mental health.
Recently, I interviewed three middle school music students who were nominated by their peers for the interview. Their eyes shone with excitement and nerves for the evening’s concert highlighting how important music is to them. When asked what this year’s Music is All of Us theme meant to them, each answered with different examples of how music brought their classmates together. Music IS all of us. And it will TAKE all of us to support music education so our students can come together and build a kinder future like Mr. Rogers taught us.
1, Verywell Mind, https://www.verywellmind.com/verywell-report-music-helped-us-through-the-pandemic-5181803#:~:text=Of%20course%2C%20you%20probably%20don,to%20help%20their%20mental%20health. (15 March 2023)