Country music can be a polarizing genre–it seems you either love it or hate it. But if there’s one thing that both fans and opponents of country music can agree on, it seems, it’s the importance of music education.
The Country Music Awards and the Country Music Festival were earlier this month, and when people weren’t talking about who won and who was headlining, they were talking about how music education helped them get their start in the industry. Headliner Keith Urban shared his experiences with music education as a child:
“It was very important for me. I was really fortunate to go to a public school that happened to have a music room and a music teacher and I just thought that was the basic standard given in every situation, but you are seeing it more and more where they do away with that where they are cutting cost and it’s a big problem because it’s not some sort of fringe curriculum thing that you can just discard you know with so many kids who are musically gifted. That is the way in which they find their voice and self-esteem and identity, and everything is in that, so to do away with that is very very destructive for a lot of kids.”
Urban, who grew up and went to school in Austrailia, shares perhaps a more global view of this issue. Austrailia’s school system is certainly different from those in the United States, however, they face many of the same problems as schools in the US when it comes to music education. 63 percent of schools in Austrailia offered no music instruction and only 23 percent had specialist music teachers. Compare this to the United States: only 42 percent have specialist teachers, and although nearly every school offers a general music class, numbers drop significantly when considering classes outside of traditional classes such as band.
Kelsea Ballerini, who is hosting this year’s CMA Music Festival, shared a similar sentiment:
“You have to have music class to know if that’s something that you want to do, and I think also as a kid in school it’s a way to express yourself and you need that as a young kid trying to find yourself. And I know for me, if I hadn’t had my highschool music teacher who encouraged me to go on stage and sing a song that I had written for the first time, I don’t know if I’d be doing, this you know. So, it’s really dear to my heart and I know that this week goes toward that, so I’m really really proud to be here.”
Last school year, Give a Note Foundation, with support from the Country Music Association Foundation, sought to understand music education in our nation’s public schools. The foundation interviewed music educators and supervisors across the United States, and the interviews with music educators and supervisors provided context for the work music teachers do every day.
The study determined that local leadership is key. It emphasized the important roles that building principals and site administrators play in determining music education opportunities for students. Often the difference between a school with an outstanding music program and a neighboring school with a faltering or nonexistent music program is simply the principal’s desire to support or withhold support for music teaching and learning.
Music in Schools Today has a long history of advocacy within California legislation and Bay Area school districts, working with educators at state and local levels to promote music education in public schools. If local leadership is key, we pride ourselves on advocacy and professional development to advance support for music education at the local level, and convince administration and music teachers that music education is worth fighting for!