March is Music In Our Schools Month and there’s never been a better year to celebrate. Music has intrinsic value that we need now more than ever, especially in our schools.
Music in our schools has a bigger impact than most people think. One of the most important is the cross-over skills that music education imparts to our students. Youth in our programs are some of the highest achieving in their grades. The leadership skills they learn in music are applied in academics and more; they’re frequently part of student government, sports and clubs.
Playing music utilizes both sides of the brain, which helps students do better in reading and math, too. Not to mention the therapeutic impact. When we asked students why they take part in music class, here’s what we heard:
- “I listen and like choir music because it feels like an escape. Choir music can make me forget about all of the bad things I go through, and can take me to a new fabricated and perfect world.”
- “I decided to join the band because I have always had an interest in playing music. Listening to more pieces throughout the years increased my interest in playing more instruments and more complex parts. My favorite part of being a band student is when we play a piece for weeks constantly and finally put it all together and sound really good. I enjoy music because it can represent all moods and emotions and make you feel good without using words.”
- “I joined a band at an early age and started learning when I entered 5th grade on my own. I decided to join the band because all my older siblings were a part of the band and I wanted to be like them. My favorite part of the band is the inviting atmosphere and being apart a group. For me, music is a way to accomplish something that I never thought I could do.”
- “My favorite part of the band is when we play music with our instruments. When everyone is in tune the music sounds good. I enjoy music a lot because I like the mood it puts people in. It can change your emotion which shows how powerful sound can be. Music can be catchy or sad, fast or slow.”
- “I decided to join the band because I was given the opportunity to not only learn how to play music, but to also have a class with my close friends. It was a chance for me to learn a good life skill, and to also establish close relationships with my classmates. My favorite parts of being in band are definitely the moments with my fellow classmates at practices and competitions. Band is one big family, and it definitely feels like that sometimes, and it makes it fun and enjoyable. I loved creating memories with everyone, while also bettering myself and my skills. I enjoy music so much because it is something fun that you can create with other people. When you make art, or write, it’s usually alone and when you’re by yourself, but band and music is a form of art that you can create with other people. I enjoy it so much because it’s something that brings you together with other people.”
Growing up, I had a number of different teachers who inspired me to enjoy music. I started band in elementary school and even though I was bad at the flute, my director was gracious and flexible, and I improved with the saxophone.
During middle and high school, I had five different directors. That was tough, but it was the experience I needed to help me relate to the students in Douglas. After high school, I attended a small college that didn’t have a band, so I tried my hand at choir. I was the college’s first music graduate and living in that small community was another good experience that prepared me for life in Douglas.
It’s been amazing – I’m the only music teacher at the high school and it’s been an honor to help build the band program. We’ve been virtual all year and even got a grant to invest in virtual tools. We’ve had online performances, students won first place in the Douglas talent show and we’re planning in-person opportunities now.
Though the pandemic was unwelcome, the virtual realm has opened new opportunities for learning and technology, which I’m hoping to continue using in the future. The students have been resilient and having music in their life has helped them weather this storm.
Nathan Darus is the music teacher at Douglas High School.
Douglas High School Band Christmas Virtual Concert