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.

1 comment:

Len Pancoast said...

You ROCK Judy!!!