In the last few years, I have been delighted to see an expanding awareness (research, studies, press reports, and anecdotal evidence) on how the study music helps develop so many universal and highly sought-after skills. In fact, that awareness has grown to such an extent in some places in the world that significant action at the national level was taken.
In 2009, the Australian government decided to include the arts in the national curriculum. According to a press release in the same year by Peter Garrett, Australian Minister for the Environment, Heritage, and the Arts, “Australian children are guaranteed an arts-rich education…” Further in the announcement he goes on to say, “Creativity, interpretation, innovation, and cultural understanding are all sought-after skills for new and emerging industries in the 21st century. Arts education provides students with the tools to develop these skills.” To read more about how strongly Australia regards music as an educational must-have, visit here or here. How refreshing and exciting to see music recognized for doing what we all have known for so long! Unfortunately, that reality is far from gaining the necessary traction in America to follow Australia’s example of including arts in the national curriculum.
Meanwhile, there is plenty of fodder to help your own argument in support of music education, such as: the numerous feature articles which have been popping up about people who attribute their prior music study to their success in non-music fields. What about Thomas Südhof, the 2013 Nobel Prizewinner in the Physiology of Medicine? He’s widely quoted as saying he owes it all to his bassoon teacher. Wonderful! Other famous examples include: Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, trained to be a concert pianist; Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a professional clarinet and saxophone player; the hedge fund billionaire Bruce Kovner is a pianist who took classes at Juilliard.
There are so many others. Here are a few folks I know (who aren’t famous) but who have done exceedingly well: past fellow UNC Charlotte colleague David Binkley, PhD, who studied jazz piano all through his formative years, is now a senior level electrical engineer for Siemens Corp.; Victor Hymes, a past fellow music student at the Oberlin Conservatory, is now CEO of Legato Capital Management, a billion-dollar global equity firm; Doug Huffmyer, another past fellow Oberlin Conservatory student, currently VP/Creative Director at Elizabeth Arden and has held major positions at Lancôme, L’Oreal, and Giorgio Armani fragrances. There are many more such examples – many of you may know some (and I’d love to hear about them).
Ultimately, examples such as these can be used in all sorts of positive ways such as, creating a growing awareness in the general populace that music study has importance and dimension beyond entertainment. They can also be used as evidence when pressing elected officials to include music (and arts) as a necessary educational program for our schools.