Try and picture a day without any music. Go ahead, give it a real earnest shot. Even if you can imagine such a day, I bet it feels weird, inhuman to some extent.
That exercise alone should illustrate the importance that music plays in our culture and its role in everyday life. While we might not always be actively listening to music, we’re hearing it in films, on the radio and as we walk down the street. Incidental music is everywhere. Even if you don’t notice it during the day, you would certainly notice if it disappeared.
Plenty of people in today’s society have taken note of the importance of music. Michelle Obama is probably the highest-profile person to advocate for strong Arts Education in schools, with her Classical Music Student Workshop Concert at the White House. Not only is she an advocate, she practices what she preaches by enrolling her daughters in music lessons. A quick search of the MENC website also reveals a bevy of resources that support the idea that art/music education in a school is very beneficial for students.
It’s not enough to simply have vocal advocates though—we need advocacy influencing tangible actions. Here in Michigan, we might be seeing the very first signs of a change for the better in education. Gretchen Whitmer (D)-East Lansing has introduced a plan that would tie legislators’ pay to school funding. It’s a great idea—cut education, cut your own salaries. If such a measure were to pass, you can be sure that cuts would be made in education only as an absolute last resort.
What does this mean for the arts, specifically?
When schools are facing a budget shortfall, the elective classes are almost always the first to face cuts. The farther you are from the “Three R’s”, the less job security you’ll have if your school district is hurting for cash. On the flip side, schools with the available funds often make an investment in arts education. If a school has the luxury of investing in a broader curriculum, they tend to do so because it is very beneficial for the students.
The best way to ensure that music education thrives is to invest in the future of the country—education.