For our most recent choir assignment, we were given the task of writing a letter to the school board with the idea that they had decided to cancel all music classes in our division (this isn't happening, we have one of the best music programs ever and a supportive division). Here is my letter:
St. James School Division,
Our music program is a very important part of our school and it would be a very bad idea to cancel that. I say this because had I not been fortunate enough to have the musical experiences that I did, I would be a very different person today. As it is, I have developed an interest in many different types of music as well as multiple instruments and I attend at least one concert every month of the year just to listen and support my fellow musicians. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I have no idea what I would be doing if I was not involved in our music programs. Every year, I participate in our school's musical theater production as well as singing in the concert, jazz and divisional choirs and playing in the concert band and wind ensemble.
Music has always meant a lot to me. As a young child, I would use everything as a drum and copy rhythms that I heard. From Grade one until now, I have taken every opportunity I could from dance to choir to drum classes and the Sundays with the family series at the symphony. All of my teachers have been very supportive of me and have helped me realize my dreams. Music has gotten me through some of the hardest times of my life and it has kept me striving to do more- to be more. Ever since I was eight years old, I have wanted to play the french horn and when I started grade seven, that's what I did. With the help of my band teachers and the other students as well as a band camp and some private teachers, I am currently playing french horn with the wind ensemble and I couldn't imagine anything more fun. My music teachers have helped me become who I am today. I remember one day in grade six so well. I was going to practice my trumpet so that I would be a better player when I got to start the french horn and I opened the band room doors to see the jazz choir and I didn’t want to interrupt them and only two of them noticed me so I just tried to stay quietly by the doors. I planned to wait until they stopped singing and pass them to go to the storage room where I practiced but that’s not what happened. I recognized the song they were working on- Somewhere over the rainbow and I sat in a chair and sat there for the rest of the lunch hour, quiet and unnoticed but just listening. That is what made me want to sing jazz and never give up n music. 6 years later, I am still in jazz choir and I absolutely love it, it’s my favorite part of my week.
Music classes are a way to bring people together. It’s something you choose, you’re not forced into it so everyone genuinely wants to be there and for the most part, they’re working hard to get better. Since there are so many different people in any given music class, being in almost all of them has taught me a lot. I’ve learned to get along and actually be friends with so many different people and I’ve learned practical music skills and I’ve learned some more interesting skills. I’ve learned to be more independant and I’ve actually learned more about math with music. I’ve never been good at math, It’s easily my worst subject but music can get me through it because now, I can relate most things I don’t like to something I love. Finally, music has taught me to never give up on myself. It’s given me some much more confidence than I ever had before and it really doesn’t matter that not a lot of people believe in my dreams, I do and that’s what matters to me.
As a kid, I was in and out of therapy a fair amount and I saw countless guidance counsellors. It helped but not very much and it just didn’t end up too great for anyone. In middle school, I started to really enjoy music and I joined musical groups and classes at every opportunity. That’s what really helped me. Music is my outlet and it’s the only way I know how to truly express myself. Whether it’s singing or dancing or playing in the band or writing or arranging or even just sitting in my room, listening to whatever we’re learning in choir, music makes everything just a little bit clearer to me.
Just weeks ago, I was very fortunate to have attended the symphonic overdrive concert at the centennial concert hall and I was lucky enough to have a front row seat. Just being there was one of the most amazing experiences in my life, even as a regular symphony goer. The experience didn’t end there though. once the concert had ended and everyone was leaving, I was one of the last people to go as I had been near the center of the room. The man who had played drums throughout the concert stopped me from leaving and started to talk to me about how great it was to see someone younger there. We began to talk and due to the many experiences in our music programs, I had a lot to say. We discussed the opportunities I had had as a student in St. James and as someone who went to various summer music camps. After about twenty minutes of talking about music, he suddenly asked me to sing. I was a bit hesitant but agreed and I sang Somewhere over the Rainbow for him since it was my inspiration to be a jazz performer and then I sang the arrangement of Brain Stew by Green Day that I had performed over the summer. As I was singing, he motioned offstage and Randy Bachman himself came to greet me and told me not to give up on music. That day, I was reminded of how lucky I am to have access to the programs that we do as well as the encouraging and supportive staff.
To restate, I truly believe in the deepest recesses of my heart that losing any part of our beloved music programs here in St. James would be a real shame and it would hurt a lot of people. I know that there are many kids like me out there and I have seen firsthand how music helps them. My younger brother for example, has ADHD/ADD and most likely OCD. I don’t say that he suffers from it because he really doesn’t. He takes every musical opportunity offered to him just as I have and it centers him and it gives him something to look forward to each and every day.
In addition to my personal experiences, there is a lot of research to back me up. Stanford and Harvard are two among many places that have done a lot of research into the topic and they’ve all come to the conclusion that even just listening to music can engage more areas of our brain than most activities society often views to be “more important” such as studying math or writing essays. I’m not trying to say that these other activities have less merit or are unimportant and neither is Stanford but I want to point out that children who are involved in music often have more successful lives in the long run and are happier overall. They’re also often easier to get along with.
In conclusion, I think that getting rid of our music programs is one of the worst things you could do for this division. From an ADHD ten year old, a sixteen year old with a panic disorder and some of the most highly regarded universities, I believe that the evidence music helps us all is irrefutable. It would be very foolish to deprive children of the amazing opportunities I have had.