If you were to walk towards the music wing at any given time during the school day, chances are you would hear the sound of a music ensemble warming up with a scale or preparing yet another song for an upcoming school concert. For the most part, one of the many goals of a music instructor is to teach his or her students to blend their sounds together and form a cohesive unit. This is a learning opportunity and a challenge for instruments and voices, which are naturally loud. This shows us how music has the power to teach things that textbooks and the classroom sometimes cannot.
Besides the feeling a student gets when finishing a particularly difficult song, what is truly beneficial about being involved in an instrumental or choral ensemble? Well, there are many reasons to be a part of a music group– reasons that you may not think of when hearing the word “music.” For example, as students, we are often told to “stand out,” or express ourselves in such a way that allows us to academically stand out from the crowd. With the stress of standardized tests and college applications upon us, competitiveness in school is expected and often praised. Although music fosters personal growth in students, it also teaches us that standing out too much– playing our instrument or singing so loud that our sound drowns out the rest of the ensemble– detracts from the effort put in from our peers. So, what does this teach us? It teaches us the value of humility, something that is often lost by many high school students in an age where so-called “selfies” seem to exhibit our level of self-confidence and self-worth. In a musical group, self-confidence often means knowing when to play or sing and when not to.
Researchers and professors agree that having the ability to adjust tone and sound automatically requires concentration and excellent listening skills, both of which are developed though music instruction. In a musical group, students are forced to become aware of their surroundings, which includes listening to their peers and appreciating their sounds and deciding how they fit in as a small piece of the musical puzzle that makes an ensemble. Studies show that those who decide to play an instrument or sing in a choral group are able to more easily learn another language, develop larger vocabularies, and improve their critical reading skills due to the intense thinking required to musically perform a piece. Music is instrumental in developing a sense of responsibility in students, as they alone must take the initiative to adjust their balance, blend, and tone to match the rest of the ensemble. Tim Lautzenheiser, author of Teaching Music Through Performance in Band, says, “Music reinforces the principles and ideals that have a significant and lasting effect on the way we choose to live.”
Music also improves a student’s sense of rhythm, which I learned and continue to learn through my experiences as a member of the marching band. When I arrived as a freshman in high school, the difficulties of multitasking by playing an instrument and marching in time to the music allowed me to develop a greater sense of rhythm and appreciate just how much easier it is to sit while playing an instrument. Although being involved in a musical ensemble can be challenging and requires work and discipline, ultimately, it can be a way to take your mind off of a stressful exam and busy school day. For many, music programs have become outlets for teenagers. It is a way for them to express themselves while learning self-assurance and the value of cooperating with others.
Perhaps, the importance of music programs may best be summed up by Leonard Bernstein: “Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable