Tonight I went to my fourth-grader’s instrumental music orientation meeting. It was very professionally run and contained everything we needed to know to get started. And it was only as long as it needed to be, which was great. One thing I noticed, though, was that nobody talked about the reason kids should learn to play music.
Don’t get me wrong, they definitely talked about the ways music can help kids in other areas of their lives. Things like problem solving and practice habits and stress relief. I completely understand that in this day and age, when more and more school districts are cutting back on the arts, music and art teachers have to justify their existence and this is how they do it. Kudos to them, and I’m not at all suggesting they stop talking about practical reasons to study music.
But it would have been wonderful to also hear a few sentences like this:
“Your child should study music because nothing in the world is like it. It opens up the mind and heart to new ways of looking at the world, and to an ability to think and feel and experience more deeply. Music is a universal language in a way few others things can ever be. If you know how to play an instrument, you’ll be part of a global community of people who realize that beauty is as essential to life as breathing. Your child should learn to play an instrument precisely because it doesn’t immediately have a practical value. It’s a quixotic campaign against the idea that everything they do has to prepare them for life as a worker and consumer. Making music is a revolutionary act. Learning to play and appreciate music is part of what it means to be human.”