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Front Page » November 8, 2011 » Opinion » Staff column
Published 1,428 days ago

Staff column

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Sun Advocate associate editor

Music is an important part of education

There was a time when music was one of the top four subjects a well-educated person had to study. (Arithmetic, geometry and astronomy were the others.) Now that's a medieval concept but those medievals were on the right track. If we ever cut school budgets to the point that music education must go, we'll be buying ourselves a ticket to intellectual poverty.

When you consider the mental and physical demands of performing music, you deepen your appreciation not only for what's going on at events such as last Saturday's Eastern Utah Wind Symphony performance, but for how music lessons translate into academic performance.

First of all, if you were to focus on any of the individuals on stage, you'd note some extreme concentration on the task at hand. Here's what they were concentrating on:

First, the sheet music. It's only symbols on a page, but those symbols have to be processed in both sides of the brain to be translated into sound. Musicians are reading a foreign language and making sense of it.

Second, while they are reading a different language, every one of those musicians had to use both hands, and except for the percussionists, they had to incorporate their breathing and the small muscles of the lips and tongue to get the notes of the right pitch, volume and duration. That takes coordination.

Musicians are athletes and the fact that they use small muscles instead of big ones does not change that.

Third, they have to watch the conductor for tempo and cues. That's another task that demands concentration, and it has to be done at the same time as reading the music.

Fourth, they are listening to themselves and to each other. Is someone playing a little too fast, a bit too loud or slightly out of key? Whatever the problem, it has to be fixed fast or the whole team will suffer.

Fifth, except for the occasional prodigy, nobody really plays that well without constant practice, individually and in groups.

So the question for the educational establishment is, what else have you got that matches music for whole-brain development?

Here you have people studying a foreign language, getting fluent in it by practice, paying attention to their own behavior as part of a team working toward a common goal, and concentrating sight, hearing and touch for hours at a time.

It's a course of study that is not only worthy of preserving, but of expanding.

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