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January 24, 2018

What the Annual Grammy Awards Can Teach Us About Music Education

Contributed by Maya Corrin

The 60th Annual Grammy Awards will air Sunday night on CBS — an evening of glamor, celebrity, and celebration. Walking the red carpet will be some of the biggest stars in music and, likely, many of the musical talents that your students look up to. However, in the midst of all of these high-paid celebrities could be a lesser known role model — your child’s music teacher.

The Recording Academy and Grammy Museum dedicate one of their many prestigious awards to a music educator, recognizing the power and importance of music programs in the schools. Indeed, every musician on stage and in the audience was influenced by a music teacher. Even many of us, whose musical careers never left the shower, were impacted by music education. The award is meant to celebrate the lasting influence and importance of music educators in public and private schools across the United States. 

Music education is proven to provide holistic developmental, social, and educational benefits to children, regardless of their talents. As Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants, comments, “If you have an environment where there are a lot of people doing creative, smart, great things, joyful things, even people who aren’t doing that have a tendency to go up and do better.” The Grammy In the Schools site, PBS, and VH1’s “Save the Music” campaign all detail this value. These articles show the known benefits of high-quality music education programs, some of which are as follows:

  • Higher test scores: Students in high-quality music programs score higher on standardized tests than their peers with inadequate programming, no matter the socioeconomic composition of the school. Christopher Johnson, a music professor, published a 2007 study that further evidenced this correlation as he compared the required focus, concentration, and memory recall in music to that required on standardized tests.
  • Higher attendance and graduation rates: Students with music programs enjoy going to school more. Attendance rates in schools with music programs can be as much as 9 percentage points higher.  And schools with any type of music program boast a graduation rate up to 17 percentage points higher than schools without.  Learning in the arts fosters motivation, attention, discipline, and persistence that encourages continued educational aspirations.
  • Language development and reading skills: Music education enhances the natural developmental path of children as they learn to process sounds and words.  Musical training has been observed to develop and circuit the left side of the brain that also decodes language, encouraging verbal (and social) competence.  This improved language skill leads to improved reading skills and achievement, which are essential for student success.
  • Spatial-temporal skills: Studies have shown that music can help students better visualize distinct elements and how they can go together.  This skill can be applied to subjects like math, art, engineering, and architecture — or any subject that involves a multi step approach to problem solving.
  • Improved self-esteem, teamwork, and leadership: Music is an outlet for self knowledge and expression as well as an opportunity to collaborate with others. Music and music performance are shown improve social skills and self-confidence.

Last year’s Grammy Music Educator Award winner Keith Hancock, a California choral music teacher, was nominated by a student’s parent for his great impact on her child’s life. Hancock commented in an interview that the “award means the world to me.” The award was not just meaningful to Hancock as a personal and professional triumph, but also was something he was excited to share, “with my community and my students who have all made an impact on me.”  Hancock also used the award as a platform to reiterate that, “funding the arts is such a crucial part of the well-rounded child.” And, of course, he made the point to thank his own music educators who helped shape him into a musician and teacher worthy of Grammy acknowledgment.

Any educator who can and does provide a powerfully positive impact on his or her students is worthy of celebrating. This year the Grammy Awards committee had to choose over many talented music educators and have narrowed their list down to a diverse group of ten music teachers. Do you know a finalist?

  • Pamela Andrews, Station Camp Elementary School—Gallatin, TN
  • Victor de los Santos, Santa Ana High School—Santa Ana, CA
  • Michelle Droe, Lincoln Elementary—Cedar Falls, IA
  • Curtis Gaesser, Folsom High School—Folsom, CA
  • Ralph Jackson, Bridle Path Elementary School—Lansdale, PA
  • Brandi Jason, Liberty High School—Eldersburg, MD
  • Chris Maunu, Arvada West High School—Arvada, CO
  • Darren McCoy, Oak Harbor High School—Oak Harbor, WA
  • Melissa Salguero, PS 48 Joseph R. Drake—Bronx, NY
  • Vicky Stockton, New York State School for the Deaf—Rome, NY

Currently the winner is unknown, but all finalists have already been awarded for their noteworthy contributions. According to the Grammy Museum and Recording Academy, all finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium and their schools will be given matching grants. The winning music educator will also win the opportunity attend the Grammy Awards Ceremony in New York and receive a greater honorarium of $10,000.

While it is too late to nominate a meaningful music educator in your life for Sunday’s event, nominations for the 2019 award are now open! We encourage you to celebrate the timeless power of music education in schools by fighting to keep them alive in the face of school funding shortages. And take advantage of the Grammy Music Educator Award to honor an influential music teacher who has shaped your child’s education, your own life, or your overall community for the better.

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