When it comes to young people, there’s really nothing that music can’t do, as today’s inspiring op-doc video from the New York Times proves. Again.
Why can’t it get a little respect from a civilized society?
The South Washington County School District’s budget is a mess. Somehow, despite voters approving almost every levy that’s proposed over the years, it’s run up an $8 million budget deficit, the Pioneer Press reported over the weekend.
It’s about to ask voters for more money, but in the meantime the district is moving ahead with plans to eliminate jobs and programs to try to keep its reserve fund at 5 percent.
What will get cut? Surprise! Athletics aren’t on the list, although it plans to raise activity fees by $10, which in a rich district like Woodbury, is pocket change that people throw on the bureau at night.
Instead the the district plans to eliminate band and orchestra in elementary schools, among many other reductions including special education and reading programs.
Again with the music programs?
Cutting the music program will save more than $400,000. The increase in athletic fees will raise about $35,000.
There are enough studies and research to show the value of music for young kids. The “Mozart Effect” was shown by researchers in 1993 that after listening to Mozart’s sonata for two pianos for 10 minutes, people “showed significantly better spatial reasoning skills than after periods of listening to relaxation instructions designed to lower blood pressure or silence. The mean spatial IQ scores were 8 and 9 points higher after listening to the music than in the other two conditions,” reported the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
In other words, music makes for smarter people. Can football do that?
And it’s hardly a secret that when young people are denied musical instruction, it isn’t going to get any better in high school.
That’s one of the reasons for MPR’s Play it Forward campaign, the instrument drive that tries to keep musical instruction strong.
The threat was great in Stillwater in 2013 when administrators similarly intended to eliminate band programs. A few months later, 63 percent of voters approved a levy that would cost them about $14 a month on average.
Music was saved.
So far there’s been no similar cry in the wealthier district to the south, a district that doesn’t have anywhere near the musical tradition that Stillwater schools have.
The cynic says the threat of cutting music is a ploy to get a levy passed. But that only works if people care about the value of the arts in schools, at least as much as they care about athletics. There isn’t a lot of evidence that that’s the case.
In other cultures, people turn junk into musical instruments. In too many schools, we turn musical instruments into junk.