If music be the food of life

In the title of this post, I’ve taken liberties with Shakespeare’s famous line about music in order to illustrate what seems to be a universal belief among Yahoo! News 60 Minutes readers in regards to our most recent segment. That belief: that music education is crucial to the healthy development of kids.

Our latest segment focuses on Venezuela’s unusual approach to music education, a national system that adopts underprivileged children almost at birth (really, at around 4 years) and nurtures them through music into adulthood. The results have been remarkable, with superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel being the most high-profile alumni.

The results of our online, unscientific poll were the most lopsided ever, in response to the question of whether Venezuela’s successful experiment should be replicated here. Ninety-six percent of our readers said ‘yes.’ It leaves me wondering what real-world poll results might be to the same question, and whether such a poll might influence policy makers.

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2 thoughts on “If music be the food of life

  1. Put me down on the ‘no’ side. I guess I’m in the minority but that’s nothing new. There’s no doubt that saving children through music instruction is a wonderful idea… but I have another idea…. let’s save the music educator!

    It is completely baffling to me that every year music teachers engage in a constant battle to justify their programs. What ever happened to good old fashioned Yankee ingenuity? If school districts are willing to chance the consequences and cut music and arts programs then so be it, we’ll take our business elsewhere.

    But wait…our universities do not give future educators the tools to work outside of academia. Why aren’t business and entrepreneurial classes mandatory for all music ed. majors? Then upon graduation our colleagues can opt for work in academia or in the private sector – as in for-profit community music schools.

    This kind of thinking is quite a threat to the status quo (which is rapidly disappearing I might add) – I know this from first hand experience. I have been fortunate to find several like-minded colleagues who have successfully run a for-profit school for over 15 years. We were even visited by the head of a national organization for community music schools who could only continue to ask ‘how do you do it??’

    We do it by hard work, by struggling, by being stubborn, by being passionate about teaching and by being great at what we do. This is what America needs – not another government program. This type of ‘sistema’ may work well in Venezuela (what else do they have to do??) but at what cost?

  2. Eugene: Thank you for your multifaceted and insightful comment. This is certainly a complicated issue, and I appreciate you taking the time to extend the dialogue.

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