“I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.”
? Tupac Shakur
We all hear about the growing body of research showing a direct link between studying music and higher scores on standardized tests for reading and math. These Studies show that music training improves cognition, motivation, attention, memory, and other developmental benefits.
In a recent New York Times article, Joanne Lipman wrote that the “phenomenon extends beyond the math-music association. Strikingly, many high achievers told me music opened up the pathways to creative thinking. And their experiences suggest that music training sharpens other qualities: Collaboration. The ability to listen. A way of thinking that weaves together disparate ideas. The power to focus on the present and the future simultaneously.”
Music opened up pathways for many prominent Americans.
Condoleezza Rice 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. Woody Allen performs weekly with a jazz band. The television broadcaster Paula Zahn plays cello, and NBC’s chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd, plays French horn, and both attended college on music scholarships. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell trained to become a professional violinist. Both Microsoft’s Paul Allen and the venture capitalist Roger McNamee have rock bands. Larry Page, a co-founder of Google, played saxophone in high school. Steven Spielberg is a clarinetist, and the son of a pianist. The former World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn has played cello at Carnegie Hall. The list goes on and on.
The link between music, and high achievement in students extends beyond the classroom. It affects how they relate to the world around them. Students who actively participate in music and other programs are:
- 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement,
- 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools,
- 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair,
- 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance, and
- 4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem.
These students also attend music, art, and dance classes nearly three times as frequently, participate in youth groups nearly four times as frequently, read for pleasure nearly two times as frequently and perform community service more than four times as frequently as their fellow students who do not participate in music and other arts programs.
So why isn’t music more important in the education of our children? As with many things, it comes down to the money. Despite the correlation between music and improved learning, music programs are often one of the first things cut in times of a financial shortfall. This is especially true in districts that are struggling just to provide a basic education for their students. For them, symphonic music in the halls of the school or trips to see the Symphony play are dreams that are not within their reach.
For more than 70 years the Symphony has believed that music is a very important part of a child’s growth and development. You might say that we were way ahead of the times. In 1943, the Symphony began introducing students to live orchestral music. Many of our members had their first experience with symphonic music when they attended one of these performances.
Today, these programs are known as Young People’s Concerts, or YPCs, and every public school student in third, fourth, and fifth grade in San Antonio has the opportunity to attend a YPC at no cost.
Each year, approximately 30,000 students take advantage of this opportunity and attend one of the YPCs. Almost 20,000 of these students come from public schools, and over 50% of those students come from low-income and Title 1 schools, are of a minority background, and considered “at risk.” The YPCs are often the only time that these children will experience the live performance of orchestral music.
But even though the YPCs are free to any public school student, many districts cannot afford to pay for the buses to bring their students to the concerts. Even though the $3 per child cost is relatively low, it is often just not in the budget.
The League and the Symphony believe this situation is unacceptable. No child should be prevented from having the opportunity to experience the life changing music of our Symphony because of a lack of bus money.
In early October, the League announced a $50,000 challenge grant. For every dollar donated, the League will match those donations dollar for dollar up to a total of $50,000. We hope to raise $100,000, which will allow every public school student to attend at least one YPC at no cost to the student or to the School District.
I hope that you will consider making a donation that could change a child’s life, and that could lead to creating a spark in their brain that will change the world. You can make a difference. You can be the “spark.” You can be an instrument for change.
David Kinder is an attorney and shareholder at Cox/Smith, a board trustee of the San Antonio Symphony, and the first man to serve in his current role as president of the San Antonio Symphony League.
This post has been republished with permission from the San Antonio Symphony League’s TEMPO newsletter.