On the topic of music education – Anastasiya Mihaylova

Bassoon reeds in cupI could write this blog post about all the ways music is beneficial to us as learners and teachers – the positive effects it has on our standardized test performance, memory, motor, communication and analytical skills. I could continue that conversation and provide the dismal array of stats on the decline of public school funding for art programs across multiple countries and how this is a really bad idea.

Or I could talk about the real reason music is important – it is profoundly human, universal and magical and should not be defended solely because it is good for something other than simply. being. music.

I was incredibly lucky to begin my music education early. In Russia, choir is a mandatory class from pre-school. Perhaps I was too young at the time to really understand why, but as I look back I think the cultural experience that music encompasses is a strong value in the nation. Nevertheless, choir became the only consistent element in my life as my family moved towns nearly every year.

It is easy moving when you’re young. As a kid you do not have to worry about any of the documentation or finances or packing (except for leaving behind some of your favourite stuffed toys). Maybe moving countries and having to learn a two languages is pushing it, but at least the presence of music does not change. Getting a recorder in 4th Grade was one of the strangest things; my parents and I thought I was getting an actual audio recorder which could have been useful to practice pronunciation. You can imagine our surprise and slight confusion when I received a plastic tube that expelled horrid noises. Multiply that by 30 ten-year-olds and I do not know if it gets better or worse. The adults made their best attempts to hide the winces of pain at home and at concerts, but the kids loved it. Forget sitting in class all day learning about multiplication and grammar! This was something we were actually passionate about. Unfortunately, I never got to witness my classmates transition from recorder to band instruments as I moved schools yet again, and truly I never got much of a transition either. It was more like a jump from recorder to saxophone (and later to bassoon), but the encouragement to continue pursuing music was definitely there.

High school is when the encouragement started to dwindle. Maybe it was because my high school was not specialized in the arts and the collective parental expectations were geared more towards STEM or maybe it was our culture as a nation that stopped seeing music education as a valuable experience in secondary schools. Either way, each year it was harder and harder to secure interest and funding for music camps and tours. I was on the Advocacy Committee at my school’s Music Council and I can confidently say that we have never encountered a bigger obstacle than convincing parents of brilliant students with high potential in music to let them participate in the program and its trips. So many times when talking to parents who did not see their children going into music professionally I would hear the comment: “Band rehearsals run so late after school, how will my child ever find the time to do all of their homework?” We find the time. Just like we all find time to browse social media and watch YouTube videos. Another comment I often heard was: “Music camp? That sounds like too much fun, my child needs to focus on their grades for university and missing school for trips is not an option”. Sounds like a fair argument, but would you let your child go on a trip if it was related to business or science? Most likely. So why not a music trip that has just as much networking and even more learning?

It seems bizarre to me that music is not encouraged through the education system because it seems to all be just “fun”. I find chemistry fun, others find mathematics, psychology or technology fun, but those fields are funded and advertised and supported by parents and educators alike. Why. not. music?

In the end, I guess what I am trying to say is that I wish music was not seen as an inferior field of interest and study especially in secondary schools. I wish everyone could experience the magical moment their hearts and souls fill with emotion as a choir serenades an audience or as an orchestra plays a beautiful chord. Music is within you and all around you, you just have to listen.

If you would like to discuss music education, your experiences with music or if you are looking for some concerts to attend and ensembles to join please reach out to me at a3mihayl@uwaterloo.ca as I do try my best to stay up to date groups in the KW and GTA areas.

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