PRINCETON – With March marking Music in our Schools Month, area teachers recently reflected on the importance of music education.
The growing danger of state and local legislatures placing various education programs on the cutting block to make up for funding shortfalls has put school music currently at risk.
Bureau Valley School District’s music instructor Ann Lusher believes music programs are being looked upon as luxuries that can be easily eliminated.
“It disturbs me greatly,” she said. “The country, state and school districts are currently so concerned with improving test scores in math, reading and science, that they are ignoring the part of the curriculum that can help the brain’s ability to improve the learning of the core curriculum.”
Lusher, who has taught music for more than 30 years, pointed out how brain research shows studying music improves the ability of both sides of the brain, which enhances learning and comprehending.
“Music helps kids develop confidence and discipline, which helps them grow into successful people and citizens,” she said.
Princeton Elementary School District’s music instructor Vicki Holmes said music education also teaches perseverance, teamwork, patience, work ethic and respect.
“Music is a part of everybody’s life, and developing a love and appreciation for it starts at a young age,” she said. “It gives an avenue for expression and can be enjoyed for a lifetime.”
Holmes, who has 25 years of music education under her belt, also believes music trains the brain for higher forms of thinking and helps music students score higher academically.
“I try to instill a love for music in my students. Ultimately, they are the ones who will miss music if it’s taken away,” she said. “I do my best every day teaching in order to build my program because a good program with involved parents and happy kids is the best advocate for music education.”
DePue School District music instructor Dale Bartlett has been teaching music for 27 years and has seen it affect students’ lives in many ways.
“Over the years, the field trips and performances seem to be the things that the kids remember the most,” he said. “I still hear from music students who are now in their 20s and 30s.”
With the current funding crisis, Bartlett has fears for the future of music in schools.
“It frustrates and saddens me that politics have, and often have, negatively turned around to hurt what’s best for kids,” he said. “Good music programs that are good for a lot of students may be affected this time.”
Music instructor Jackie Ribas has taught private lessons for 13 years and also teaches music at Ladd Community Consolidated School District and Malden Grade School.
“I love seeing the ‘light bulb’ look on a student’s face when they were struggling with a concept and then suddenly completely understand,” she said. “The second thing that makes my job worthwhile is when students take the skills and information that I teach them and incorporate it into other subjects of their everyday lives.”
As Ribas recognizes her students as the future leaders and decision-makers, she said it’s important the best and correct education is provided to prepare them for the ever-evolving world.
“Music education is an essential part of students developing skills to be well-rounded individual and members of the society,” she said. “Music not only helps us learn new things, but we can learn new things through music.”
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