Keeping the BEAT

The Legacy of Music in Our Schools Month
By Annie Mack

Music is Powerful

For many, being introduced to music at school is one of the first experiences of understanding music as an art form as well as an educational tool.
One of my fondest memories of feeling the magic of music was seeing a performance of “Peter and The Wolf” at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis as a young girl.

For weeks leading up to the performance, the music teacher taught our class about classical music and the particular style of this piece. I was struck by how music could tell a story without words. Each character is represented by a different instrument—the bird is a flute, the duck an oboe, the wolf a French horn and the hunters the timpani. To sit in the audience hearing the story and knowing exactly what was going on was priceless.  

Music to our Ears

The National Association for Music Education (NafME) shares: “For more than 30 years, March has been officially designated for the observance of Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM), the time of year when music education becomes the focus of schools across the nation. 

“The purpose of MIOSM is to raise awareness of the importance of music education for all children—and to remind citizens that school is where all children should have access to music. MIOSM is an opportunity for music teachers to bring their music programs to the attention of the school and the community, and to display the benefits that school music brings to students of all ages.”

Musical March Madness

What is now celebrated over a month was initially just one day. The first celebration was in 1973, when New York City music educators pushed to bring their music programs to the attention of the community to show how music education benefits students of all ages. 

Now a full month observance, schools across the nation showcase quality music programs that include performances, educational classes, field trips and more. As art and music programs see increased cuts in their funding, this month has become a crucial part of music education.

Rochester-area elementary schools are fortunate to have to have Alash, an ensemble that specializes in Tuvan throat singing, leading interactive educational performances for a week in March. This is part of Riverside Concerts’ Artist-in-the-Schools Residency program, which brings world-renowned artists directly to our young people. As their mission reads, Riverside Concerts “is committed to continue to bring artists to the local schools that will not only spark an interest in musical performance, but also to plant a seed that will help solidify our young people’s future as ongoing arts patrons. This program builds community and camaraderie among the students while teaching them the history of different cultures and those cultures’ forms of musical art.” 

Music All Year Long

Rochester schools offer year-round music for K-12 with classes like choir, orchestra, concert band and jazz band, as well as specialty classes that focus on learning unique instruments like the ukulele. But as budgets shrink, teachers are personally paying for needed items or have turned to funding platforms—which is why this month is critical for demonstrating why arts education is important.

Over 47 years ago, New York governor Nelson Rockefeller spoke to commemorate the very first Music In Our Schools Day, and I believe the words still hold true. “Music is a powerful aesthetic force. It brings spirit and joy into the life of every individual. It dignifies the realm of feeling by merging intellect and emotion in the search of a humane way of life. It strengthens international and racial bonds. We must continue to encourage and support this significant art form, which, as it moves more deeply into the core of education, becomes a powerful single channel into the innermost feelings and responses of every child.”

Happy Music In Our Schools Month!