Music!

So I opened one of the final music concerts of the year last Thursday and it was really, really inspiring. To see how far our kids have come musically over the past year or two was truly something special for everyone in attendance, and it got me thinking about the importance of music education. Actually, it got me thinking in general about the role that music plays in many of our lives, and how if I really think about it, I become convinced that everything in life is just simply better with music! I’m not sure if you’re like me or not but there’s something about listening to music that just makes my day better…when I go for a run, or drive in the car, or walk to the store, or when I have it playing in the background at home or at school throughout the day. There’s something about how music can take me away to another world and help me think, and dream, and reminisce, and reflect, and create, and get centered. I have to admit that music also triggers something down in my soul, and it stirs up powerful emotions that help me “feel” things deeply…it’s almost an ethereal sense of being when I get lost in a song and start to drift away, and if I hear bagpipes I’m definitely a goner due to my Scottish roots. Anyway, I know I’m not the only one because everywhere I look I see both children and adults alike tuning out with their earphones in, and being carried away to a better place in their minds. So with all that said, It’s not hard to see why I’m such a staunch advocate for music education in schools, and I’m super proud that we charge every Middle School student to take a music course and to play an instrument each and every year.

I decided to spend a few hours this week researching different websites, scholarly articles, blog posts, and doctoral dissertations to see what I could find with regards to how music positively impacts a student’s life. As you can imagine, there were hundreds and hundreds of blog posts, and dozens of professional books and published articles all discussing the power and importance of music education, and the many, many ways that it positively influences brain development, social-emotional development, and academic achievement. I did my best to sift through many of them, and I came up with a list of benefits that seemed to prevail throughout my reading. Here’s what stuck out for me…

1. Students who take music tend to have larger vocabularies and more advanced reading skills than their classmates who do not participate in music lessons.
2. Children who are involved in music at an early age show greater brain development and memory improvement than their peers.
3. There was one study from Columbia University that claims that students who study music have higher levels of self-confidence, are better able to express themselves, and are more cooperative with their teachers and classmates.
4. There are a lot of claims that music is to the brain, like exercise is to the body. Music essentially helps the brain stay fit.
5. Music education helps the brain to comprehend speech in a noisy background, and when you think about kids with learning disabilities, or kids that tend to lose focus easily, music can benefit and enhance their ability to learn tremendously.
6. It appears that children who study music are more likely to excel in all other areas of their education, and they tend to work better in teams and have better critical thinking skills.
7. Music helps the brain break down and understand language, making students who study music better able to pick up a second and third language.
8. Music enhances mood, and increases a person’s tolerance of frustration.

None of this comes as a surprise to me, and I guess as educators it might even seem like common sense but not all schools and districts are on board. It disturbs me to read about how schools in this day and age are still cutting music programs to save money or to come in under budget, and it boggles my mind that not all schools require their students to take music classes or learn an instrument or two. Thinking back to the concert the other night, I guess what I really am is thankful…thankful for having the opportunity to work with such outstanding and committed music teachers who inspire our students each and every day, and who open up their hearts and minds to the joy, power, and benefit of music education. As you all know, one of the greatest human beings and inspirations of all time, Maya Angelou, left us this past week and it was a sad day. I’ve read so much of what she’s written, and I’ve watched dozens of interviews with her, and she used to regularly discuss how music had impacted her life in profound and immeasurable ways. In one interview she went on for almost an hour discussing how music and the natural world are so beautifully intertwined, and how music and beauty and nature are synonymous. So with last week’s concert and Maya Angelou on my mind, I’m off to create a new playlist and head out for a long run through the streets of Shanghai. Whatever it is that you’re about to do on this relaxing Sunday afternoon, I can promise you that it will be better if you put on a little music! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…….
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
– Maya Angelou

Inspiring videos which celebrate kids, and the beauty of Music –
http://www.upvines.net/this-young-trio-started-singing-leonard-cohens-hellelujah-then-the-whole-studio-was-blown-away/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYKLvYGqaC0
(VPN in China) – Tool “46 & 2” cover
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naYbJGlW-CA (VPN in China) – Andy McKee “Drifting” Cover
The Power and Benefits of Music in Education –
http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-benefits-of-music-education/
http://www.education.com/topic/the-power-of-music/
http://edition.cnn.com/2011/SHOWBIZ/Music/05/31/music.education.cake.difiore/
http://chronicle.com/campusViewpointArticle/Healing-Power-of-Music/1395/
http://stringvisions.ovationpress.com/2011/06/power-of-music-education/

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Celebrating Maya Angelou –
http://edition.cnn.com/2014/05/28/us/maya-angelou-obit/

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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