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Commentary: Music education’s benefits are hard to ignore

“It takes time away from academics.”

“You won’t able to get a job in that field at all.”

“You can’t survive in society if you are stuck on music.”

Although these statements about music education may be partially true, it is unfortunate that people judge students who are involved in their schools’ music departments.

For my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I decided to explore the topic of music education and its benefits on a student’s mind, and why it shouldn’t be criticized or neglected.

My project was inspired by watching a CNN report about Music Basti, a group in India, and also inspired by Bob Simon, the late “60 Minutes” reporter, after learning about his passion for music.

Some countries ban music education from their school systems.

In India, Venezuela and the Congo, people are trying to improve music education in their society by creating after-school clubs dedicated to music, like Music Basti from India, El Sistema from Venezuela, the Recycled Orchestra from Paraguay and the Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra from Congo.

In America, it may seem like we accept music education, but school districts everywhere are dropping music and art curriculums because of budget cuts. The students’ lack of participation, enrollment and knowledge about these departments cause the school administrators to discontinue these classes.

So why is music education important? What effects does it have on a student?

Research has shown that when exposed to musical instruments, the brain works a lot harder than it normally does (which means it gets tasks done faster); positivity shows more in the personality; language skills (along with speech) are enhanced, and stress is relieved.

Music education also strengthens brain-cell connection – you will respond to things more quickly – and these connections and nerves will last longer in life.

Along with that, music education teaches discipline and manners, helps kids stay engaged in school, builds imagination and creativity, raises SAT scores and improves overall grade point averages, leading to scholarships and higher graduation rates.

Perhaps most interesting is that music education has been proven to reduce a person’s chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease.

Every minute someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s, or more than 5 million Americans a year. One in three people over the age of 60 die from Alzheimer’s, making it the sixth leading cause of death in America.

This summer, CNN showed a documentary on country singer/songwriter Glen Campbell as he struggles with Alzheimer’s disease. In the movie “I’ll Be Me,” Campbell at times fails to remember his family’s faces and names, the date, and sometimes the lyrics to his songs, but when Campbell performs his tunes and his insane guitar “licks” on stage in front of thousands of fans, it’s impossible to see that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

On May 31 at Sweet Home Middle School, second- and third-graders from across the district, eager to learn what being a student musician is about, came to a music “workshop” I held.

After sharing my research with them, these future musicians walked into classrooms with high school demonstrators.

“I do believe it was beneficial for kids,” said Lindsay Moran, a violinist. “I think this event helped make their decision for next year.”

“It was clear that there are some ambitious, young Sweet Home students who want to pursue music,” said Amy Feldman, a cellist.

“I think the event made (the kids) excited to start playing next year,” said Colin Gerlach, who plays both percussion and tuba.

“Most of the kids were interested to see all the various percussion instruments and a lot of them were surprised with how different instruments sounded,” he said. “Being able to hear a wide selection of instruments gave students an opportunity to explore music and gave them a push to participate in Sweet Home music (classes) in the future.”

Some parents have mentioned that this was a good idea for students to learn about the department, and what to expect when their child starts learning an instrument.

“I got a lot of positive reactions from the parents,” said Lindsay. “They were attentive, polite and asked insightful questions. I think they appreciated the event.”

It is never too late to pick up a musical instrument and learn how to play it.

Some people may think it’s too time-consuming, but think of that the next time you watch TV or are on the computer. You could take that time to learn a new language, to find a new hobby and to keep your mind healthy.

You can check out Music Basti and the other organizations at these websites: musicbasti.org, elsistemausa.org, landfillharmonicmovie.com, glencampbellmovie.com and afghanistannationalinstituteofmusic.org.

Allie House is a senior at Sweet Home High School.