How to Make Great Citizens with Music

By Frank Scinta

The Buffalo Board of Education’s recent approval of a budget that reduces its instrumental music ensembles threatens to neutralize a program that, at the very least, instills in our children essential knowledge and skills that stretch across the curriculum and, at best, creates for our students invaluable ensemble communities that ground them in the elements of teamwork, interdependence and good citizenship.

Nothing comes closer to creating a firm foundation for our children’s entry into society than early and constant exposure to the act (and art) of performing as “one body, one voice” in a school music ensemble. Our culture repeatedly cites athletics as a builder of self-confidence and selflessness in our youth, which indeed they are. Why then would we stop short of considering school music ensembles as creators of the same, especially when countless studies in education and psychology support and, in fact, encourage such thought?

Music education proponents repeatedly cite the many valid studies that support the role of the music ensemble experience as a catalyst for continued growth in all other academic areas – math, science, language and literature, social studies and physical education. But there exists an even greater validation of ensemble music in education: that is, the incalculable effect it has on human socialization. When students realize that the success of any organization – a government, a business, a team, an orchestra, a family – depends upon their own contribution of time, talent and sacrifice, they come away from the experience understanding the crucial role that collaborative effort plays in every aspect of a successful society.

Frank Scinta is a recent member of the music faculty of the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts and adjunct professor of Fine Arts/Music at Canisius College.

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