Without a populace that understands music and art — beyond a gut reaction — how can the best of it possibly to come to the surface?
People need education to appreciate music and art. Some might feel this idea is “elitist.” It’s only elitist if music and art education is given to some, and withheld from others. How about this?: ALL people should have music and art education.
You might ask, why? You might even say that when it comes to music and art, “I know what I like.” But do people really “know” what they like? Why do some of those “likes” change, while others prove more long-lasting?
Our manmade sound and sight worlds profoundly affect the way we feel, the way we act, the way we handle our relationships with one another. I would argue that they affect the way we operate as a community and society. Should we educate ourselves about this? Should we put our best minds to work, making judgments on the nature of our surroundings and creating them? Should we know enough to see who has those special abilities? Or should we leave it all to those who have a pre-schooler’s sensibility in regard to music and art? Should we continue to produce human beings who do not know the difference?
How about a hypothetical example: I know what I like, when it comes to football: My Team. I’m fully capable of watching a football game and rooting for My Team. What more do I need to know? So what if I don’t know the rules, the name of the coach, the abilities of the players, the difference between a kids league or a professional league? So what if I don’t know the history of the game? I know what I like. What if I tell you that none of it matters, I really don’t think that anyone needs to know any of those things, beyond what they like. I like the coach, so we should keep him. He’s been there 15 years, and I just like seeing his face every week. I like the quarterback, too. He’s cute, in that No. 7 jersey, and it looks like he can throw a ball pretty far and the other guy catches it most of the time. Shouldn’t my opinion matter?
You could easily see my deficiencies, in that case. I doubt anyone would cry, “elitist” if someone were to argue, “Despite your enthusiasm, you really don’t know what you are talking about.”
But in music, we seem to insist, as a society, that we are all equal arbiters. “Oh, I can’t hear the difference,” people insist, implying that the difference doesn’t matter. Really?
We need to have the collective ability to identify our artists, and we need to be versed enough to understand what they do. We need to be able to argue intelligently about how we build the musical and artistic world around us and who we entrust with the task.
It matters. Those radio songs that profoundly affect what goes into our ears — and our children’s ears — on a daily basis are produced in today’s world through an astonishingly cynical process. Principals who never had arts education congratulate themselves for providing kids a shallow exposure to music, without understanding music as a serious and complex discipline like math or language. And the budget cuts always fall first on music and arts education programs, despite the known benefits such education provides in boosting abilities across disciplines, in motivating students to achieve in school, in lowering substance abuse in students, in promoting better citizenship, in creating cooperation among students, in boosting the school’s image of itself and more.
If music creates a “beautiful soul” in a young music student, as Shinichi Suzuki famously said, I have confidence that a musically-educated public would go a long way toward creating a “beautiful society.”