Those who diminish the importance of arts education often argue that most music students will not pursue music professionally, rendering their music education meaningless or an activity with a dead end. This fact—that most students will not go on to be music professionals—is true, but the issue with that argument lies in a narrow perspective of the impact of arts education.
When you speak with a former music education student, they may mention band trips or show choir competitions, perhaps even their favorite costumes or most embarrassing moment on stage. But a lot of them will talk about the people, both their classmates and their directors. They will say things like, “My classmates encouraged me and made me want to work harder. I learned how to be a good colleague from them.” Or maybe, “My director challenged me to be a better performer, to push myself and grow in places I didn’t know I was capable of growing.” No matter what profession a student enters after high school or college, these testimonies demonstrate the professional and personal impact that music education can have on a young person. Music educators play an essential role in the development of confident, hardworking, and determined individuals, and their avenue for these irreplaceable (and highly necessary) life skills is music.
Music educators play an essential role in the development of confident, hardworking, and determined individuals, and their avenue for these irreplaceable (and highly necessary) life skills is music.
Speaking from a personal standpoint, I guarantee you that I would not be the business owner, leader, and confident individual I am without my music education mentors. I was fortunate enough to participate in music and performance activities from grade school through high school and in college as a Ball State University Singer, so I was mentored by a slew of music educators, each one with a distinct personality and teaching style. Each of these teachers influenced my life in different ways, offering guidance and wisdom in many areas and teaching me valuable life skills that have stayed with me throughout my professional life.
Every teacher shared one important thing in common: They showed me what is possible with hard work and dedication, and they passed on their joy of inspiring others with music and performance. Though I may not be the one on stage in a show choir dress anymore, I feel incredibly lucky to still play a role in the arts as the owner of a business that supports music education and offers young people the chance to feel confident on stage. Though I am involved in the arts community professionally, the skills learned from my music education mentors are skills that could carry me into any profession.
An audience can see sequin dresses, elegant tuxedos, and shiny instruments on a stage, and they can appreciate artistic talent. But the things that aren’t visible to the naked eye—dedication, confidence, work ethic—are the irreplaceable skills that students develop when they participate in the arts. To those who persist in their narrow view of the impact of arts education, I challenge them to open their eyes and look beyond the stage. It’s there that they will see young people growing, developing, and changing the world simply because a very important music teacher mentored them and showed them what was possible.
Beth Slusher is the President and Board Chair of Give a Note Foundation. She is the CEO/President of Rivar’s, Inc. in Indianapolis, IN.
Beth’s passion for music education led her to co-found Rivar’s, Inc. nearly 30 years ago to assist music directors in outfitting their performance groups with quality, affordable group costuming. Rivar’s serves music educators and performance groups nationwide and abroad.
Supporting and uplifting others who are dedicated to music and the arts is what drives Beth’s philanthropic involvement with key music organizations and foundations. Music educators played a key role in her personal development as a child and continue today in her professional role and passion for keeping music in our schools as a vital part of a student’s education.