Music Finds a Way
By Scott R. Sheehan, NAfME President
An edited version of this column appeared in the September 2022 Investing in Arts Education issue of Education and Career News. Read the full issue here.
In every culture on every continent since the dawn of civilization, music has been part of the human experience. Music communicates and connects people across time and cultures and allows people to find their creative and expressive voice, both individually and with others. Music is part of our identity and how we make sense of the world around us. Music can be a source of strength, hope, and joy and can bring comfort, healing, and respite. Regardless of the challenges societies face, music finds a way to amplify the human experience by creating the soundtrack of our lives, which transcends generations.
It is imperative that all children have the opportunity to unlock their musical pathways to self-discovery and understanding through a robust music education learned in school. As we work to emerge from what has hopefully been the worst part of the suffering inflicted by COVID-19, schools are in a unique position to consider what education looks and feels like moving forward.
In the early months of the pandemic the music education profession rallied together to create online tools and resources at a rate that under normal circumstances would have taken several years to develop. Everyone, from publishing companies, music education associations, instrument manufacturers, and software companies, to the scientists who led the International Coalition Performing Arts Aerosol Study, worked to ensure music education could happen in a meaningful, low-risk way for students. Many creative online lessons were developed, and unique ways of engaging students musically happened using new and innovative learning platforms. Out of a terrible external crisis, a renaissance of new ideas occurred throughout music education, positively impacting children’s musical lives across the country.
Without a doubt, however, COVID-19 most impacted the irreplaceable beauty, joy, and sharing of in-person music making. Although technology and virtual learning brought innovation to new learning platforms, they simply could not take the place of the intimacy and personal gratification of making and sharing live music with other people.
In spite of all we have endured and in light of all we have learned, the future of music education is bright, yet not without challenge. Schools are facing the realities the pandemic highlighted regarding inequities in resources, funding, and reliable internet, especially in historically marginalized communities. Although these issues can seem overwhelming in nature, communities are increasingly calling for equitable opportunities for students, and access to music education must be a key component of this equation.
Equitable opportunities in music education begin with music teachers. Now more than ever there is a great need to recruit new music teachers into the profession. It is critical that the music education profession builds a diverse workforce that is representative of students throughout the United States and the world. With many schools placing newfound emphasis on student wellness, music educators can help students understand their own feelings and interactions with others through music. Similarly, music educators have the capacity to create belonging and connection in ways that are unique to music learning. Truly, the rewards of a career in music education are many, and perhaps the greatest is seeing lives changed through the power of music.
As music programs in many places rebuild from the impact of COVID-19, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) stands ready to assist. With music learning once again happening in classrooms, and performances returning to stages and stadiums, NAfME and our state affiliates are working to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. NAfME continues to advocate for equitable access to music education for all students, no matter their circumstance or background. We encourage everyone to help music find its way into the classrooms, homes, and hearts of every citizen.
About the author:
Scott R. Sheehan is the President of the National Association for Music Education. Read his full biography here.
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The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.
January 19, 2023. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)