The purpose of this study was to raise awareness of the community and school personnel regarding the effects of music education on general learning. The problems are many as communities in the United States continuously threaten to eliminate music instruction from the public schools. Music teachers’ survival in a school district is governed by such variables as state taxes, administrators’ attitudes, state requirements, and public opinion (Conners, 1977, Dalby, 1992, Hartley, 1981). Many community leaders, administrators and school board members are generally musically illiterate (Frazee, 1991). For the last decade, fine arts programs in many American schools have been systematically dismantled (Fowler, 1992). Inadequate music programs, poor public awareness, and a lack of balance in leisure time activities have contributed to the current condition.
The goal of raising community awareness was approached by informing the local school administration and school board members of the value of music; recruiting their support for music as a part of the general curriculum; and publishing articles in the local newspaper. Five questions were investigated: 1) How does one become musical? 2) Is there justification for music in the general school curriculum? 3) What are the effects of music study in general learning? 4) How do we get parents excited about music in schools and community? 5) What will happen to children if music is not in the regular school curriculum?
These questions became five articles which I had published in the local newspaper. Influential school and community leaders were interviewed and quoted in the articles requiring them to think about why they valued music. I made contact with various community music and arts leaders to gain knowledge of what was available in our area and to learn what needs we had for space and cooperative projects. After the articles were published, a survey was distributed to parents to assess the following: 1) How many articles were read? 2) How much did the articles increase understanding of music education? 3) How much did the articles increase your awareness about the value and necessity of music education? 4) To what degree did the articles move you to act on behalf of music education? 5) Do you have additional comments or insights?
The general response to the five articles indicated that those who read at least one had an increased understanding and awareness of the public concerning music education. It also demonstrated a general willingness on the part of respondents to act on behalf of music education. Those who read five articles reported a higher increase in understanding and awareness and also were more likely to act on behalf of music education than those who only read one article.
Survey results, together with the additional comments, showed a continued need for music educators and advocates to report the benefits of music education to the public. The responses also indicated that the frequency of information increases the degree of understanding, awareness and commitment to music education.
The public wants to know what music does for the mind in general learning and what will happen if music is cut from their school’s budget. Parents ought to be informed regarding how they can help develop their child’s musical aptitude into a lifelong learning experience. Schools can take an active role in educating the community about the value and necessity of music education for all children. Success depends on sustained and continuous effort and enthusiasm.