Canadian Music Trade - August/September 2017 - Page 27

subjects, but improves estimation and computation skills and en- hances student engagement in school learning overall.” That’s a lot of learning… Okay, we get it. The research supports it. So what do the educators say? Sandy Thomas, a lawyer and a board member for Jazz Perfor- mance and Education (JPEC), is in charge of JPEC’s school outreach program. She volunteers to set up music programs in schools in high-needs and under-serviced areas – particularly those with lim- ited or no formal music programs. It works out to about 50 visits a year in the Toronto area. Thomas has witnessed the children’s concentration, focus, and thinking in the sessions. “These interactive workshops examine the various components of jazz, the roles of various instruments, the importance of improvisation, composition, and more.” After one session, a teacher said: “I noticed that even the chil- dren who have some behavioural challenges were fully engaged with the programming and calmed down. With the room full of instruments formed in concentric circles, I felt that it added to the philosophy of community at the Africentric school.” JPEC is one of several not-for-profit organizations with a school program. In JPEC’s case, musicians are paid to visit one or more classrooms and conduct workshops, either as individuals or in groups. The kids come away inspired to learn. Teacher and musician Andre Soares uses all kinds of music ensembles as a way to teach repertoire, soloing, listening, and basic music theory. He has seen resources in schools reduced for the arts, including music. If teachers, faculty, and parents want music for their children, teachers are responsible for making it happen themselves. “I usu- ally have to contact the people who will provide the funds,” Soares notes. Because some of the kids he teaches come from low-income families, he spends his own time researching and arranging for them to attend symphony performances and other events, as well as bringing musicians to his school. Tafelmusik, the internationally known Canadian baroque orchestra and chamber choir, does its part by offering free after- noon concerts, providing 150 free tickets to full performances for student audiences, advancing downloadable preparatory materials for teachers and parents, and arranging musician visits to schools throughout North America. There are others, too, but often, for the kids to get up close and personal, money is needed to pay for workshops and musicians. We know that music is social. Music in schools can bring peo- ple together for all kinds of causes says James Miller, a grade eight teacher in Newmarket, ON. Music, he says, can be the catalyst for fundraising events, recognition events like Black History Month, and special campaigns like anti-bullying and mental health awareness. Miller is also a professional musician, has taught songwriting at York Region Arts Camp for seven years, and conducted local ele- mentary choirs for 11 years, involving over 3,000 children from over 20 schools. All the teachers and musicians I spoke to feel that music in schools is much more than just fun. Soares confirms the research: music can help with social interaction, cooperation, emotional well- being, goal setting, and concentration. So back to the research… The Coalition for Music Education has shared research on its website that once again talks about the benefits of music. Study after study tells us that music education enhances learning on many fronts. School curriculum is set by individual provinces, and some are more positive about music education than others. For example, the Manitoba curriculum for grades one to eight says: “Music enriches a vibrant culture and is integral to human life. It has the power to illu- minate, deepen, broaden, and enhance human experience. Music and musicians have an impact on daily experience, help define and express individual and collective identities, and shape, reflect, and comment upon societal and cultural values.” Integral to human life. That’s a pretty strong statement. Ontario’s curriculum document for kindergarten to grade eight is a little different: “Since arts experiences offer other modes and ways of experiencing and learning, children will have opportunities to think and feel as they explore, problem solve, express, interpret, and evaluate the process and the results. To watch a child completely engaged in an arts experience is to recognize that the brain is on, driven by the aesthetic and emotional imperative to make meaning, to say something, to represent what matters.” PBS Parents, a parenting resource from the American public broadcaster, reports the benefits of making music: “Making music involves more than the voice or fingers playing an instrument; a child learning about music has to tap into multiple skill sets, often simultaneously. For instance, people use their ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles, says Kenneth Guilmartin, co-founder of Music Together, an early childhood music development program for infants through kindergarteners that involves parents or caregivers in the classes.” But is the money where the political mouths are? Children are influenced by music from – and even before – birth. Most cultures sing to their babies to soothe and calm them. As kids grow, rhythm makes them happy. 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