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wsma board perspective Communities Take Pride in


Quality Music Programs Elaine Baumann, WSMA President-Elect


Dear Administrator,


I would like to share some thoughts about the importance and value of high quality music programs in our schools. Let me begin by sharing a recent experience.


Elaine Baumann is principal at River Falls High School and WSMA president-elect.


Email: Elaine.baumann@ rfsd.k12.wi.us


It was clear and sunny on Thursday, November 11, 2010. As is our local tradition, a dozen members of our American Legion came to our school for a brief commemorative ceremony for Veterans’ Day. The ceremony was held at the flagpole in front of our building. There were over 1,000 students and staff members and our Legion participants. The crowd quieted and the band members assembled began the program with a very moving performance of “America the Beautiful.” This was followed by a short address, the flag was raised, there was a 21-gun salute and it all concluded with “Taps” played from the distance. As I turned to dismiss the respectful crowd I noted many teary eyes. We had all shared a moment that had been greatly enhanced by the power of music.


Apparently, I was not alone in that observation. Immediately afterward, the leader of the veterans’ group approached me to thank us for extending the invitation. But the thanks were followed quickly with comments to the effect that we have such fine band and choir groups in our schools and how the community takes pride in our music programs that add so much to ceremonies like this.


And to really bring the impact of community involvement home, the next day I attended a local service club fundraiser. The entertainment for the evening was provided by our middle school jazz ensemble and jazz choir. Again, I heard repeatedly how these performing groups were the perfect addition to our evening and should definitely be included again next year.


So, Dear Administrator, what does this have to do with music education in our schools?


As a former music educator myself, I understand all of the educational and social reasons why vibrant music programs are good for our students and for our schools. I know the brain research that illustrates how music stimulates learning at all ages and about the positive influences of early music study on later learning. I know first-hand the interdisciplinary problem solving skills that students learn through music performance. I have seen the confidence gained through public performances and the musical maturation that develops over time.


I am also aware how membership in music groups is a great asset in school achievement. The Search Institute research recognizes that “belonging” is a crucial asset for youth. Young people of all types and talents can find a place to belong in school music groups. I hear regularly from parents of new students that they credit participation in our music ensembles as helping them fit in and feel like a part of their new school. Even colleges and universities recognize that participation in band or choir significantly increases the likelihood of completing a college course of study and graduating on time. In short, the social benefits of music programs can be as important as the musical benefits.


But as an administrator I cannot overlook our music programs’ reach into the community. As the landscape of public education funding shifts in our “new economy,” it is becoming apparent that


8 January 2011


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