Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No School Musician Left Behind

I found a good article in the paper yesterday about No Child Left Behind and its negative effect on arts education, and, while I couldn't find the exact story online, I did run across an even better one:
Raising school test scores in reading and math remains the biggest hurdle for No Child Left Behind, with many schools nationwide performing at less-than-acceptable levels, according to government proficiency tests.

But while districts scramble to improve on core subjects, educators say the latest subject to be left behind is arts education.

The arts community is hoping to build a partnership with the business community to make music, dance and drawing classes more of a priority in the reauthorization of the education program.

Their pitch: Art classes enhance the creative and innovative thinking that drives entrepreneurs.
I've discussed this before; there are plenty of people in the business world with a degree in music who credit the experience of earning that degree for giving them an edge that "regular" business students don't always enjoy. In one instance, a musician in the finance industry considers his music degree to be an ace in the hole:
This guy got a music degree at UNT, and, although he still performs regularly in several different areas (including a reserve military band), his day job is in the financial industry. While some might think that a non-business background would serve as a disadvantage, he considers it to be his ace in the hole. In a nutshell, he figures that the experience he had getting that degree at a rigorous school like my alma mater puts him head-and-shoulders above 90% of his coworkers, because they've never had to experience the type of grueling schedule and rigourous personal discipline demanded of the students in the music program. I think he's absolutely right.

I'm not exactly sure what my friend has seen (or not seen) in his coworkers, but I know what skills are developed during the course of getting a music degree: time management, multitasking (think of all the things required just to play a piece of music: tone, pitch, rhythm, dynamics, expression, etc.), conquering of performance anxiety, organization of thought, and so on. Few other disciplines develop all these things to such a high degree, especially at the elite, performance-oriented schools like UNT.
It's still an uphill battle to get everyone in business on board with the idea that students cannot live by math and science alone. Back to the original article:
The Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agree that arts education would help produce more creative, well-rounded students. According to the chamber, American graduates are beginning to fall behind other countries in creative skills, which could be aided by arts classes.

But the business community isn’t ready yet to move lobbying resources from their top education priorities, which still include rigorous testing standards for NCLB. Those standards, they argue, will produce a more globally competitive workforce.

So mastering the basics must come first, they’ve told [government affairs liaison for the National Dance Education Organization Karen] Bradley. But she counters: “What they really want is to hire people who can think on their feet and have creative skills. Arts are a part of that, but they don’t get it.”
I hope more people in government do start to "get it." The arts are important. Read the whole article, and check out similar ideas here and here. I've also talked at length about the subject in this previous post.

No racket left behind: Conductor Simon Rattle was, well, ratlled recently at a recent Carnegie Hall performance. Having just spoken to the audience about the importance of keeping quiet during a particularly sensitive portion of a Mahler symphony, all was going well until, in a soft closing passage, the sound was disrupted by emergency sirens from a passing vehicle.

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