By Debra Bell
OF THE WEEKLY STAFF
April showers may bring May flowers, but March is the month for school music appreciation. And for Bangor High School sophomore Meg Ward, music is a vital part of her school life. “I feel like music is so crucial to students gaining an understanding of expression and emotion, which is something that no other classes in school will teach you,” Ward said. She is a member of the auditioned chamber choir at Bangor High; she also takes a challenging course load that includes honors classes, language arts classes, and the arts. Next year Ward will take AP Music Theory, chamber choir, and participate in Bangor’s Gifted and Talented program. Ward has performed with Next Generation Theatre and in her high school theatre program, most recently as Beth in “Little Women.” Her experience is reflective of other student musicians. “I think the most amazing thing in the world is being a part of a choir,” Ward said. “It’s so incredible to be able to be part of the hard work that goes into the music we perform. Every single person in that class puts their heart into the music, and the result of that emotion is moving and beautiful.” Music creates well-rounded students Two local music teachers who echo the results of a Harris Interactive Poll are Lynn Thibeau, owner of Play! Piano Studio in Bangor, and Becky Mallory, owner of Mallory Music Studio, located at 611 Hammond St. in Bangor. Mallory also teaches music at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden. The women said that music is more than just an outlet for expression. “Children learn how to get along with people and work together toward a common goal,” Thibeau said. “They gain an appreciation of music. When everything else is gone, music is still there. It lets them be who they are and helps them learn to emote.” For students who receive their musical education strictly at school, the value is myriad, Mallory said. Student musicians, while honing skills, have an outlet comparable to any sports team. In fact, teamwork, accountability, and patience are part a well-rounded musician. The Harris poll also noted that 72 percent of adults with musical education stated that professionally, they were better prepared to be team players and approach problems creatively. That’s where the importance of school music comes into play, the teachers said. School music programs also introduce students to foreign languages, skill building, problem solving, and enhances language skills. Music programs also provide community to students, said Bangor High School senior Michael Jacobs. “I believe that music in school gives a sense of community to non-athletic students,” Jacobs said. “It gives a sense of accomplishment and inspiration to continue to do what I love. For someone like myself who is musically inclined, it gives me peace to be able to walk into school and be challenged in something that is both fun and demanding and also in a welcoming environment.” Access to instrumental music education can be difficult for some families, however. While many schools have loaner instruments that students can use, the most successful musicians have an instrument that is their own. That’s where programs like The Gifts of Music come in. “The Gifts of Music believes music education should be accessible for every Maine student wanting to express him or herself,” said Founder and President Susan Patten. “Unfortunately, affording an instrument or music lessons is financially out of reach for many Maine families.” The Gifts of Music is a nonprofit that provides instruments and scholarships to allow students to pursue music. “Music needs to be a vital part of any school curriculum,” Patten said. “Music education has consistently proven to improve the overall scholastic achievement of students while also teaching them teamwork, patience, listening, and cultural understanding.” Music students are successful after school According to the Harris poll, music is positively associated with lifelong education and higher income. The poll showed that nearly nine out of 10 people with post-graduate degrees participated in music education, and 83 percent of people with incomes higher than $150,000 participated in music education. “If you want to be a CEO, college president, or even a rock star, the message from this survey is: take music,” said Dr. John Mahlmann, executive director of MENC – The National Association for Music Education; he was quoted on the advocacy page of the NAfME website about the 2007 Harris study. “As with reading, writing, and arithmetic, music should be a core academic focus because it is so vital to a well rounded education and will pay dividends later in life, no matter the career path taken.” A prior Harris study drew correlations between higher graduation and attendance rates in schools with established music programs. A University of Kansas report noted that students in top quality music programs scored 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math on standardized tests mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act. Music is not part of the NCLBA testing, but the correlation between music and core academics is hard to ignore. In addition, the College Board reported that in 2006, SAT takers who participated in music scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the SAT and 43 points higher on the math portion. But music is more than just test scores, Mallory and Thibeau said. It’s about helping children learn more about the world while enhancing their own abilities. “[Private music lessons] help kids take ownership because there is weekly accountability,” Mallory said. “We create a feeder program for the schools by providing 30-45 minutes of individualized attention. We also work with students to create customized, individual lessons, set goals, and help the kids meet their goals.” The Harris Poll identified five major correlations between music and achievement in school and in the workforce. They were: • Striving for excellence in groups; • Teamwork; • Creative problem solving; • Flexibility at work; • A disciplined approach to problem solving. Those qualities benefit students as they pursue higher education as well as when they enter the workforce. “Music opens up a lot of doors for children,” Mallory said. “It’s not easy being a kid, but music offers an outlet for them to express themselves. It’s magical, and we’re lucky to stand with them.” And students who have the support of music teachers, fellow musicians, and the community gain a lifelong love of music. “What I love most about the school music program is that we don’t just make music, we make magic,” Ward said. For more information about the Gifts of Music, visit thegiftsofmusic.org.