According to Northland teachers, music in education is a big deal as it helps students learn to trust and be supportive of a team. It is also shown to have a positive impact on learning in other areas.
While Kids Music Day, Friday, Oct. 2, isn’t specifically celebrated in many Northland schools, Smithville music teacher Justin Orscheln said his district, like others, celebrates music all the time.
“Typically, what we do is celebrate Music in our Schools Month, which is in March,” Orscheln said. “Something that I’ve done, and keep in mind I’m teaching (kindergarten through sixth grade), is we do a March Madness bracket on a big bulletin board in my hallway.”
Orscheln said the effort involves the whole school. Students compete by singing one of two national anthems and the student body votes until they can narrow it down to a final winner.
Liberty Fine Arts Director Aaron Money said music is even part of ongoing virtual learning in light of the pandemic.
“We are just trying to make sure all of our students have access to the arts,” he said. “If they are (virtually learning,) we are giving them independent study. That means they are working with a secondary teacher on either band, orchestra or choir. As far as (strings) for fifth grade, we are offering those classes up for virtual students to still be able to come in and work through that.”
Music brings people together and help students develop interpersonal skills, area educators said.
“Music makes the world a better place,” Kearney High School band teacher Chris Heil said. “It’s a lifelong activity. There are adults in community groups who may be doctors or lawyers, but they join together because they love music.”
“... Music really does bring an opportunity for everyone to come to the table,” Oscheln added. “We tell people that anybody can be a singer, anybody can be an instrumentalist; you’ve just got to be able to put in the hard work.”
Heil said with music education, students are exposed to a synthesis of concepts.
“We are also strengthening soft skills that today’s employers are looking for such as teamwork, problem solving, adaptability, creativity and resourcefulness.”
Studies show students who participate in music perform better in other classes, Smithville Middle School music teacher Angela Viebrock said, adding music creates an opportunity to connect multiple parts of the body and use different areas of the brain.
“We talk about in my class that when they’re seeing and performing a song, and especially if we do choreography, that they’re connecting every aspect of their body when they’re singing,” Viebrock said. “They’re using their voice and decoding the music into notes, then doing it physically. Then, if we’re (performing) in a foreign language, that’s sparking another part of their brain.”
“Many people will talk about brain stimulation or (music’s) connection to higher test scores,” Kearney High School choir teacher Dustin McKinney said. “I think the importance runs deeper. Music allows students to explore, create, take risks, fail gracefully and learn about themselves.”
Viebrock said music can also change a person’s day. Her students are learning Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” she said, adding they tell her the song makes them feel better.
“It is a stress reliever,” Viebrock said of music. “... It can turn your whole day around.”
“Not one of (my band students) has ever been sorry to be in band,” Heil added. “Most of them talk about band becoming their family and that accepting group they needed.”
If you can bring music into a child’s life, Money said, it creates a well-rounded student.
Tips for families
When it comes to advice for adults, local music educators suggest starting children early in music education. Another tip, do not be afraid of one’s ability.
“The one cringe-worthy thing for me is when parents say that they can’t sing,” Orscheln said. “Anytime an adult says, or even a kid says, ‘Oh, I can’t sing,’ yes, you can. … Don’t be afraid to sing in front of your kids. … Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.”