I have a wonderful friend who is a music teacher in a local public high school. She eats, breathes and sleeps her job, and you can tell that her students adore her. She is a whirlwind of energy, and she truly inspires. Nearly every year her school faces drastic budget cuts that threaten her program, and I hear her making a plea to the voters in her community to let their voices be heard about the importance of music education.
I'm sad that there is any question about the importance of music education. I can't imagine what my high school experience would have been without band.
In early high school, I wasn't a band geek by any means. I was second-to-last chair, mostly because playing the trumpet just didn't interest me. I never practiced, and even during band class I Just went through the motions. And then something changed (I, um, had a crush on a boy in band) and I decided I wanted to make an effort to be a better trumpet player. I practiced. I worked hard. I dedicated my study halls and even after school time to trumpet playing, and I saw the results. I began to enjoy playing, and before long I was signing up for the pit band, for the show choir band, for jazz ensemble, for all kinds of solo and ensemble performances, and even bands outside of school. I picked up a secondary instrument, the French horn. I taught myself piano. I even joined a drum and bugle corps for one season.
These experiences changed my life. They taught me things that history class, English class, math class - all important in their own rights - never could.
I learned that I could accomplish a lot if I worked hard at it. That lesson got me through four years of college and three years of law school.
I learned how to plan. Between my band obligations, Academic Decathlon, and the general requirements of school, I had a lot on my plate and a lot of scheduling conflicts to manage.
I learned that I can work very, very hard. To this day, nothing I have experienced compares to the hard work of the drum & bugle corps. No matter what challenge I face in life, I can compare it to my drum & bugle corps days and my new challenge seems like a walk in the park.
I learned that high school isn't all bad. Like many teenagers, I had a really, really hard time in high school. It wasn't the "best days of my life" as my mom had promised; it was quite the opposite. Being in band gave me a place. It gave me an identity, something that I so desperately needed.
I don't play my trumpet or my French horn anymore. I occasionally play the piano, when given the opportunity. But even though the actual music didn't endure, the lessons I learned certainly did.
Maybe it is because of all of this that Jack has a lot of musical toys. Xylophones, maracas, a tambourine, countless music boxes. Cymbals. It is no secret that I delight in the joy that he takes with exploring these toys, and I certainly plan on giving him the opportunity to pursue music education early on. And while I hope he picks up the piano, guitar, trumpet, violin, drums, whatever instrument he chooses like the next Mozart, even more than that I hope he learns all of the really important lessons that music education provides. I think he will.