Op-Ed: All-State flutist stresses importance of Perry Hill band
It has come to my knowledge that the Perry Hill School music program may be cut next year. From my personal experience, the Perry Hill music program is what sparked my interest in music. I always loved music class with Mrs. Adams at Long Hill School. I especially loved playing the recorder. At the end of the year, Mrs. Adams pulled me aside and told me since I loved the recorder so much, I should try playing the flute in the Perry Hill band. If Perry Hill did not provide me with that opportunity, I may not have decided to continue my music education. There is a two-year gap between the elementary schools and Shelton Intermediate School. If the music program stops for two years between elementary and middle school, it can greatly affect how many kids join the SIS program, which then feeds into the SHS music program. As a young child, not being able to experience this continuity in education is a huge problem.
The Perry Hill School music program opened up so many opportunities for me. I have performed with the Connecticut Music Educators Association Western Region Middle School and High School Music Festivals and have been accepted into the All-State festival twice. I have had the chance to perform with the Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestra’s Principal Orchestra and chamber orchestra during my junior and senior years of high school. This summer, I was going to travel with my orchestra to perform at different venues in Russia, Estonia, and Finland (that was unfortunately canceled due to Covid-19). I received the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award from the Regional Center for the Arts (RCA) in Trumbull. I had the chance to work on a show in collaboration with people from the Mandala Theater in Kathmandu, Nepal. Shelton High School gave me the chance to perform in the pit orchestra for our productions of Legally Blonde and Chicago. I performed in RCA’s production of Holiday Inn. I have been a member of the Shelton High School Marching Gaels for five years, and I have been awarded the Semper Fidelis award from SHS.
Music is more than just playing an instrument. Through music, I have found lifelong friends and families. The Shelton High School Marching Gaels, Regional Center for the Arts, and the Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestras are all my families. This is just my personal experience with music. It is also important to look at the facts. The National Association for Music Education’s website contains a list of 20 important benefits of music in our schools:
1. Musical training helps develop language and reasoning: Students who have early musical training will develop the areas of the brain related to language and reasoning. The left side of the brain is better developed with music, and songs can help imprint information on young minds.
2. A mastery of memorization: Even when performing with sheet music, student musicians are constantly using their memory to perform. The skill of memorization can serve students well in education and beyond.
3. Students learn to improve their work: Learning music promotes craftsmanship, and students learn to want to create good work instead of mediocre work. This desire can be applied to all subjects of study.
4. Increased coordination: Students who practice with musical instruments can improve their hand-eye coordination. Just like playing sports, children can develop motor skills when playing music.
5. A sense of achievement: Learning to play pieces of music on a new instrument can be a challenging, but achievable goal. Students who master even the smallest goal in music will be able to feel proud of their achievement.
6. Kids stay engaged in school: An enjoyable subject like music can keep kids interested and engaged in school. Student musicians are likely to stay in school to achieve in other subjects.
7. Success in society: Music is the fabric of our society, and music can shape abilities and character. Students in band or orchestra are less likely to abuse substances over their lifetime. Musical education can greatly contribute to children’s intellectual development as well.
8. Emotional development: Students of music can be more emotionally developed, with empathy towards other cultures They also tend to have higher self esteem and are better at coping with anxiety.
9. Students learn pattern recognition: Children can develop their math and pattern-recognition skills with the help of musical education. Playing music offers repetition in a fun format.
10. Better SAT scores: Students who have experience with music performance or appreciation score higher on the SAT. One report indicates 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math for students in music appreciation courses.
11. Fine-tuned auditory skills: Musicians can better detect meaningful, information-bearing elements in sounds, like the emotional meaning in a baby’s cry. Students who practice music can have better auditory attention, and pick out predictable patterns from surrounding noise.
12. Music builds imagination and intellectual curiosity: Introducing music in the early childhood years can help foster a positive attitude toward learning and curiosity. Artistic education develops the whole brain and develops a child’s imagination.
13. Music can be relaxing: Students can fight stress by learning to play music. Soothing music is especially helpful in helping kids relax.
14. Musical instruments can teach discipline: Kids who learn to play an instrument can learn a valuable lesson in discipline. They will have to set time aside to practice and rise to the challenge of learning with discipline to master playing their instrument.
15. Preparation for the creative economy: Investing in creative education can prepare students for the 21st century workforce. The new economy has created more artistic careers, and these jobs may grow faster than others in the future.
16. Development in creative thinking: Kids who study the arts can learn to think creatively. This kind of education can help them solve problems by thinking outside the box and realizing that there may be more than one right answer.
17. Music can develop spatial intelligence: Students who study music can improve the development of spatial intelligence, which allows them to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures. Spatial intelligence is helpful for advanced mathematics and more.
18. Kids can learn teamwork: Many musical education programs require teamwork as part of a band or orchestra. In these groups, students will learn how to work together and build camaraderie.
19. Responsible risk-taking: Performing a musical piece can bring fear and anxiety. Doing so teaches kids how to take risks and deal with fear, which will help them become successful and reach their potential.
20. Better self-confidence: With encouragement from teachers and parents, students playing a musical instrument can build pride and confidence. Musical education is also likely to develop better communication for students.
I am now pursuing a degree in music therapy at Nazareth College, with a minor in psychology. None of this would have happened without the Perry Hill School music program to start me off.
Karina Friend is a member of the Shelton High School Class of 2020.