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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Students find joy with strings attached | The Age

I studied violin and viola in the public schools from fourth grade through my first year in college. And outside school, I learned to play piano and guitar. That music education and experience played a significant role in my growing-up years. It was essential to my success in school--and still!

Music instruction in school (and outside school) was also significant to my wife, who majored in must in college. Piano was her instrument of choice. And my two sons studied music in school and on their own. They now consider themselves professional musicians (though they're certainly not getting rich at it!)

I mention all that because this article reconfirms to me the essential role that music instruction must play in our schools. Our communities must pay for it--and involve as many students as possible in it.

The article discusses an intensive music-instruction program, based on a successful Venezuelan model, that introduces orchestral training and performance to children who are otherwise unlikely to experience it. The Venezuelan experience has reached 4 million children during the past 37 years, but just 30 students have entered the new program, so far, at the Australian school described in this article.

The benefits there have already been noticed:
Not only have the children — selected randomly from more than 70 who applied to take part — embraced the disciplined training, but a survey sent out after six months showed 90 per cent of parents noticed an increase in their children's confidence, with 95 per cent saying their children were happier and 95 per cent now more positive about their child's future.
Says the assistant principal:
Not only have the children lapped it up, never complaining about the extra work, but the parents are highly supportive, too. They can see the benefits. It's had huge benefits for their whole learning, too; we're seeing positive effects on their other work.
Not surprisingly, funding is a stumbling block for expanding the program. But the article notes that the initial program in Venezuela also has a social justice element that helps aid philanthropy to support it. And that benefit is now also aiding funding for the Australian school.

The article reports that similar programs are under way in Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Austria and the United States.

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