There were many things I could have done last Thursday night. Spring yard work beckoned; the refrigerator was nearly empty; and a long walk on a balmy evening with a lovely sunset would have been delightful. I doubt that any of those activities, as pleasant as they sound, were as rewarding as what I actually did. I attended the high-school band concert at East Jessamine.
I have a family connection that motivated my attendance — this I freely admit. But I was reminded once again of the powerful impact music can have on young lives and why I would never consider the music programs in our school to be “fluff.”
The band members were intent on doing their best. When I arrived, they were in the painstaking process of tuning. Each instrumentalist sounded an independent note to see if his or her pitch was correct. The common goal? Achieving perfect harmony. There’s an entire column that could be written using this powerful illustration, but I’ll resist that temptation for now. Suffice it to say that many sectors of our society could benefit from a tuning exercise.
Only five pieces were played, and before each one, a band member stood to present an introduction. Filled with historical and geographical information, they were educational all in themselves. I learned about Phantom Canyon in Colorado and the 1890s legend of the sighting of the ghost of a prisoner who had been executed at a nearby penitentiary. The region is now on a list of sites considered environmentally endangered. Imagine learning merged with music; it happens every day in our schools.
On the website of VH1, of all places, I found confirmation of the educational value of music programs. A quote was posted from Educational Leadership stating, “Learning and performing music actually exercise the brain — not merely by developing specific music skills, but also by strengthening the synapses between brain cells. What is important is not how well a student plays but rather the simultaneous engagement of senses, muscles, and intellect.”
Band membership also reinforces concepts of teamwork and personal discipline (didn’t we all hate practice time?). The VH1 website also cited studies revealing that students in high-quality school music-education programs score higher on standardized tests compared to students in schools with deficient music-education programs, regardless of the socioeconomic level of the community. In short, music programs are well worth the investment of our school dollars.
I also urge the community to take note that many of our best teachers and administrators have links to the music program. Lu Young was an accomplished Jessamine County High School flutist. Owens Saylor, whom we all will miss as he transitions to Daviess County, began his educational career as a band director. Many other community leaders of note (pun intended) also have connections to the band.
I thoroughly enjoyed my evening, and it was inspiring to hear good things are happening for the East program in spite of recent negative developments and a change of leadership. My one disappointment was that the auditorium was not filled with people there to listen and show their support.
If you want to congratulate the band members for their perseverance, they have a fun event planned for next month on May 12, “Jammin’ with the Jags.” Call the school for details.
In these days of economic hand-wringing, it’s tempting to put music programs on the chopping block. There are many reasons not to do so. The uplifting music I heard last Thursday night is only one of them.