Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Music Education Must be Mandatory in Schools

Yesterday I did something I have never done before.  I went to the NH State House to speak before the House Education Committee regarding HB 39, a bill that would remove Technology Education, Health Education, World Languages, and Arts Education from the mandated core curriculum in our public schools.  As the Representative who wrote the bill said, it would not mean that schools couldn't teach those subjects, it just means they don't HAVE to. Can you imagine how ludicrous this is?  Under the guise of "local control" a local school board could choose to cut TECHNOLOGY education, for crying out loud, if they had to make budget cuts.  But for me, the part of this bill I'm most passionate about is the notion of cutting funding for arts education.  That's why I decided to go to Concord and speak.

I posted my remarks on my Facebook page, but for those of you who don't "do" Facebook, I'll post them here as well:

My name is Judy Pancoast, and I am a resident of Goffstown and a 2011 Grammy Award nominee.

I’m here to speak in anecdotal form about my opposition to H.B. 39.

In 1973, when I was 13 years old, I was bullied mercilessly by the kids in my Jr. High School because I was the fat girl. At home I spent hours playing the piano and singing and making up songs, which brought me relief from the daily torture I experienced.  At school no one wanted to sit with me at lunch, so I used to sneak into the music room and play the piano and sing.

One day, the chorus teacher walked into the room as I was singing.  Next thing I knew, with his encouragement, I was singing a solo in the spring concert.  I would never have been able to do it without his help and confidence in me.  That teacher changed my life.  Soon I was no longer just the fat girl…. I was the girl who could sing and write songs.  Throughout the rest of Jr. High and High School I took every music class offered and participated in chorus and band.  I was fortunate that my high school offered music theory and music history courses as well as performing groups.  Eventually I went on to study music in college.  I have made a living as a professional musician ever since, and I have traveled and performed in 49 US States and abroad because of music.  In two weeks I will be attending the Grammy Awards ceremony as a nominee, and, in 1997, I was honored by the New Hampshire State Senate for my work as a children’s musician.  I am also a juried member of the Arts in Education roster of the NH State Council on the Arts.  I am sure that none of this would have happened without that first music teacher’s encouragement and my subsequent public school music education and experiences.

To me, Music was not just a core curriculum subject it was THE core curriculum subject. Although I excelled in other academic areas they never held the interest for me that my music courses did.   I was one of millions of kids through the years who go to school because of the chance to make music. In fact, many children find their only opportunity to learn music and learn to play an instrument at school.  And many children find in the arts not only a place where they are accepted and a refuge from bullying, but a lifelong passion and a career.

It is a well known fact that when economic times are tough music programs are the first to be cut.  If music education is not mandatory in our schools then how many children like me will lose their chance to grow and shine and benefit their communities and the world?
Just imagine a world with no music because there is no one to make it; then it should be easy to understand why arts education must be a substantive part of a child’s education.   I am here as living proof.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Musings on Weird Things

I was thinking yesterday about what I had to do over four years to get this album completed, and the thing that first sprang to mind is all the stuff I sold on Ebay to finance it.  As an indie musician there is no "big money" behind me so I had to come up with every cent to pay for it, and believe me, I didn't skimp as you can probably tell from the production values on the CD.  I wanted everything to be just album I could say is truly the best I have to offer.  So I sold my treasures...including ancient Barbie dolls I'd had since I was little and my set of ceramic buildings from "Mitford," the wonderful little town in the "Father Tim"  books I love so much from Jan Karon, among other things.    These are things that were very important to me, but I told myself at the time that doing the thing I love the best now and moving forward with my creative life was more important than holding on to material things and memories from the past.  But I have to admit, it wasn't easy selling those things.  Still I was happy while working on the CD with my producer and one of my dearest friends, Jim West, and I was excited about my idea of a concept CD that would take kids on a journey across the USA with me.  I've just loved traveling and discovering new things in this amazing country and I wanted to get kids excited about learning all about our great country and the many wonderful and varied treats it has to offer.

It would be a lie to say I wasn't also apprehensive, though.  I was doing a concept CD, something that is rarely done anymore in this age of downloading single songs, and I had all kinds of doubts:  "Is it boring?  Am I doing okay on the narration?  Does it make sense? WILL KIDS ACTUALLY LIKE IT?"  Jim had to reassure me at just about every session, but he's really good at that and bringing out the absolute best in me, so we forged on.

Now, the CD has been out there for a year, and it has done more than I ever expected it to do.  Lookie here:

*Paula Slade from called it a "one-of-a-kind" CD and said it was an "engaging musical road trip," plus:
All in all, Weird Things are Everywhere is a very special trip for children ages five through 10 that offers plenty of entertainment and packs an educational punch perfect for classrooms and home school families.
* It received a coveted STARRED review in School Library Journal, which said I was a "vocal chameleon"  (my kids are so sick of hearing me say that!) and:
The focus on literacy and reading, the fun segues between songs, and the performer's superb voice makes this an excellent choice for use in a school setting.
*Amber Bobnar from said it was one of the 12 best children's CDs of the year!


There IS that little matter of a GRAMMY NOMINATION!!!

So, all in all, I'd say it was good decision to sell that stuff. 
Still, the indie musician struggle goes on.  A Grammy Award nomination does not instantly make one rich, so now begins the matter of buying the plane tickets, paying for the hotel, finding a DRESS to wear on the red carpet and all that stuff. And I wasn't expecting to have this kind of expense in the quiet month of January so I didn't exactly plan ahead!  We should all have such troubles, huh?  That's easy for you to don't have MY husband who is peering over my shoulder every second saying, "How are we gonna pay for all this?"
I swore to him this morning that I would do it, just like I've managed to do all the other stuff...the CD, the tour, etc. etc. 
So my point is?  I need to sell CDs...lots of CDs...between now and the end of January. Would you consider purchasing one?   Is there a child in your life who has a birthday any time this year?  How about getting that end of year teacher gift out of the way now?  Is there a librarian you know who has a small budget but would LOVE to have a CD that's been given a starred review in School Library Journal? Buy one for your special niece, your Godchild, the kid next door....
It's $15 and that includes the shipping and handling.  You can pay through PayPal or send me a check.  For the details, click here:

You can also get them at and at but the only place you can get a personally autographed one is from my website or at one of my shows.  Plus buying it directly from me means you aren't giving any of your hard earned money to a middleman.

Thank you once again for supporting my music and helping to make my dreams come true!