The month of March, for more than 30 years, has been officially designated by the National Association for Music Education as Music in Our Schools Month.

The association encourages school districts and educators to pause and think about the importance of music education for all children and discuss the benefits music in schools brings to students of all ages.

Meara Mitchell, Staley High School band director and North Kansas City School District’s instrumental music coordinator, said music equalizes the playing field.

“Whether in curriculum or extracurricular activities, anyone can play or perform. Watching a concert, you can’t tell what a singer or player’s socioeconomic level is. You can’t tell what sort of house he or she lives in,” she said.

Mitchell said arts lead to a lifetime of successes, skills and understandings.

“It’s as important as athletics,” she said. “Music is truly a universal language. It’s also a skill that enhances every other subject. There’s the ability to process notes, rhythm, to become part of a team. You become reliant on others to make music together. You strive to do your best as they are doing their best, too. Kids also learn time management.”

Most music teachers, Mitchell said, are resourceful as well.

“We will find a way to get an instrument in that kids’ hands,” she said.

Kearney High School Band Director Chris Heil said music in schools provides primary and secondary benefits.

“In working together, there is a synthesis of concepts. We are also strengthening soft skills that today’s employers are looking for such as team work, problem solving, critical thinking, adaptability, creativity and resourcefulness,” he said.

Heil added music is part of what makes people human.

“Music makes the world a better place,” he said. “As with others, it’s a lifelong activity. I still play with a group on Sunday evenings. There are adults in community groups who may be doctors, lawyers, but they join together because they love music.”

Heil has his senior students speak to younger band members.

“Not one of them has ever been sorry to be in band,” he said, “and most of them will talk about band becoming their family and that accepting group they needed.”

At Northgate Middle School in the NKC School District, Cameron Carney teaches orchestra and Dustin Mott is the band director.

“Music has a unique ability to affect people in so many different ways,” said Carney. “It heals wounds, generates emotions and can change people. Like Meara said, music is a great equalizer and there is a place of sameness when everyone is making music together. It’s not about just the success of one person, but it is everyone. That is the strength of an ensemble.”

Mott also serves as assistant director at North Kansas City High and Eastgate Sixth Grade Center.

“The great thing is that we get to teach, express and promote the arts as a whole,” said Mott. “Being a music teacher is serving as an art advocate. We also are providers of entertainment. With the bands, we can provide entertainment for sporting events, community and school events.”

Mott said individuals learn about artistic expression, creativity and imagination when involved in music.

“I try to make it an environment that is welcoming and expressive,” he said. “Students are then able to help shape a piece of music into a piece of art.”Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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