Music Education: A First Person Perspective
With trillions of dollars floating around the world it seems hard to believe that simple choices towards massive benefit are sometimes the hardest ones to make. An injection of capital - mostly paperless data nobody will ever see or hold in their hands - has the opportunity to change lives, rebuild communities, and set positive goals of development and change that have the possibility to have ripple effects for years to come. As far as education goes, take a moment to brainstorm a few reasons it’s funding should ever be cut.
As simple as the answer is, the context of it’s stage is out of our reach for the time being. Politicians talk about it. Votes are thrown simply to assign a budget, administration to administration; those on the outside bicker about stupidity amongst the political heavy weights, helpless to effect change in any which direction. We could discuss the plethora of reasons why education funding takes a backseat in today’s society but it would simply be too frustrating and too time consuming, but there is one aspect of this particular tragedy I have first hand experience with.
In the Fall of 2007 I found myself at the Tropicana Dome in Orlando, Florida. It was a long day - I’d been up since the early hours of the morning, we all had, but there wasn’t any opportunity or a willingness to stop just yet. We had made it all the way to the finals of the Florida Marching Band Championships, and there was literally nothing any of us wanted more then to reach the goal we shared since the 100 degree heat of a classic Florida band camp. Spot lights shined upon us, a crowd of thousands were on their feet, and for the first time in my life I felt absolutely nothing. I had pneumonia at the time, but I wasn’t out of breath. Time seemed to slow down and I was completely focused, thankful, and overwhelmed with joy - more than I’ve ever felt in my entire life. Psychologists I work with would probably call that a peak experience; a moment of complete transcendence and flow.... We called it performance. Judges ruled, and we won first place - breaking a pretty important marching band rule soon after. Don’t hug in uniform.
During my time in high school band money did more harm then good for our program. We lost a band director to budget cuts leaving one man in charge of 100+ students, working 70+ hours a week without overtime, and as the director who was cut was an expert in percussion? It left ~20 students without a completely qualified teacher. Extra staff members went 3-4 weeks without getting paid as the dues to remain in the band got higher and higher, leaving kids with more and more fund raising needs and less and less time for homework. Instruments that were owned by the school and damaged seldom got fixed; rubber bands, paperclips, tape, and feats of intense creativity held together what it could. Ultimately, it didn’t matter how many competitions we won (and you can look up Cypress Creek High School on your own time if you so desire), we could never be as good as we could be simply because we couldn’t afford it.
Band taught me how to be a leader. It taught me how something as simple as a first impression to a worried pre-pubescent 13 year old clarinet player as he ventured into the high school band room for the first time can have all the significance in the world. I’ve seen kids who could barely speak confidently in public stand in front of a crowd of thousands and conduct with pride and accuracy. Playing saxophone taught me more than the wonder of music - it taught me how to be a human being. It taught me how to feel when there’s no words, how to lead while being a best friend, and it taught me how something wonderful can bring hundreds of people together under a common goal. I don’t know how my life would of turned out if not for high school band yet... Here we are as a society: Sports programs, for relatable example, get substantially more funding then any of the arts (strings, choir, drama, and drawing included). Band directors teach our children everything a coach does plus the realization that something can actually mean more then everything. How music can empower a people, fuel a passion for creativity, and inspire children who may be awful at math/english/history/science to keep trying anyways... Because thats what band was about. Being yourself. Finding what drives you and using it under the spot light. Having a goal, reaching a goal. And to have absolutely no idea how to explain the feeling afterwards. Band kids aren’t asking for all the money in our banks - heck, as much as we could use an instrument or two - we aren’t even asking for 0 contribution from our end. All we want is our teachers to be paid, our instruments to be fixed, and thousands of years of music history to be respected in the American school system.
Even if you are not a musician, you more then likely listen to music. Music is everywhere. We champion it. We cry to it. I was once told a story about a pianist in New York after 911 - the streets were silent, cars were few and far between, and the only thing heard for hours was a piano softly echoing down ally ways and around corners.
In a world of so many questions, we rely on the arts to bring us home.
I’ll give you a second to brainstorm occasions that music hasn’t been there for you when you needed anything to be true.
(attached in a rehearsal performance from my senior year of high school. The music is all done by students.)
- The Future of Fire at School Amphitheatre - YouTube
This was recorded during Eight Grade Night on October 23, 2009.