Keeping Music in Children's Lives
Cover Photo by Deanna Young
Have you ever thought about what a life without music would be like? Could you wrap your head around waking up one day and not having something to listen to or to relate to? It’s really tough to do if you really think about it. How would you act at the gym? Does cooking suddenly become a chore? Are showers now boring? How does your driving style change? It’s safe to say that a life without music is one that would suck!
With each passing day, however, it appears that this could be our future, with states cutting funding for music in schools, taking the music away from the lives of our youth. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 31 states are providing less funding per student each year and in 15 of those states the cuts exceed 10 percent. If cuts from the state level wasn't bad enough, 18 of those states saw cuts at the local level as well, making it even more difficult to provide the gift of music for generations to come.
Pair these terrifying stats with the potential 2018 budget that our esteemed leader (heavy sarcasm) has proposed that includes cutting of funds for the National Endowment for the Arts and the future doesn’t seem promising for our future musicians. Friday night football games won’t feature a marching band. Proms will be much different without the band formed by recent graduates. School plays will cease to exist because what’s a school play without some form of music.
While this could be a time to allow the power of few to dictate the path of many, several organizations are focused on keeping the education of music alive within our future musicians. Often times these organizations go unnoticed but it’s important to keep them in the spotlight. Doing so will allow them to realize that their message is being heard and that they are appreciated, not only by our current students, but also the future musicians that haven’t wandered through the halls of schools at all levels.
The Rock and Roll playhouse is a weekly concert series held at the Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn, NY and The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY that allow families to enjoy the music of iconic musicians in an environment that is conducive to a youthful sense of play and dance. Formed by Pete Shapiro, owner of the Brooklyn Bowl and The Capitol Theatre, and Amy Striem, an early childhood and elementary school teacher, the Rock and Roll Playhouse was formed as a way to educate children 10 years and younger about the joy of music and the people that have helped create it.
“The Rock and Roll Playhouse concerts unite families through live music,” Striem said.
Often times, when musical acts have residencies at the two venues, a special all ages day show is included during Saturday portion of the residency. Most recently The New Mastersounds hosted an all-ages show at the Brooklyn Bowl with Control the Sound in the supporting role. Midway through the opening set, The New Mastersounds keys aficionado, Joe Tatton joined the band of youngsters on stage to fill in on organ. Moments like this are the ones that young musicians strive for and they help keep the passion of playing music alive in a time with so many distractions.
Growing up in New Orleans wasn't always easy, but Derrick Tabb turned to music to help him get through the struggles of adolescence. A successful drummer who started playing at five, Tabb is the snare drummer for the Grammy Award-winning Rebirth Brass Band. But Tabb wanted to give back, so in 2007 he started his nonprofit, The Roots of Music.
“I saw the direction that our youth were taking in New Orleans and wanted to make a difference,” Tabb said. “I remembered my struggles as a kid and those that reached out to me to save me from self destruction. I knew what it was that kept me out of trouble and it was music.”
Tabb believes that music is a tool to help with self-discipline and can be influential in youngsters making the right decisions. Tabb correct in his observation of music and its correlation to children staying out of trouble and was honored in 2009 as one of CNN’s Top Ten Heroes.
“It definitely has strengthened my music career by challenging me more as a musician,” Tabb said. “This keeps my skills fresh as a musician.”
Even the instructor can learn a thing or two from the pupil and moments like this could be nonexistent if not organizations such as Tabb’s.
Musician Katie Feeney has always been an advocate for healthier, more vibrant communities. After Feeney graduated from Penn State, she spent two years with AmeriCorps working on the Community Water Watch program. Currently, Feeney is the Development Director of Rock to the Future (RTTF), a nonprofit that provides free music education to youth in Philadelphia.
Using music, their programs ignite passion and creativity, support academic achievement, and improve self-esteem. RTTF empowers individuals and strengthen communities.
The impact that music has on children’s lives is undeniable. No matter how young a child is, the exposure to music is something that benefits them physically, mentally and emotionally. Feeney likes to tell story of one particular student who saw incredible growth that was almost immediate.
“We have a 14 year old student named Ethan who has Asperger Syndrome. Ethan comes from a single-parent household without the financial ability to afford music lessons,” Feeney explains. “Prior to joining RTTF, Ethan was bullied by classmates, socialized with much younger children and attended special education classes below his grade level. AT RTTF, Ethan discovered an incredible natural musical ability that has impressed peers, staff and spectators alike.”
Because of the dedication from Feeney and her peers, children like Ethan will grow into themselves in a manner that allows them to thoroughly enjoy life. Something they might not get the opportunity to do if not for music.
The power of music is evident in everything we do. Imagine waking up in a horrible mood for some reason and then hearing Bob Marley’s lyrics “Lively up yourself, and don’t leave no tread.” Does your mood change almost immediately?
Music is the key to other dimensions that we can’t yet comprehend, which is why it is such a travesty to see so many of these programs being ripped from the lives of children. While we might not be able to stop the crooks on Capital Hill from doing what they’re going to do, we can remain focused and diligent on keeping music in the lives of future generations to come. All it takes is dedication to getting future generations the same opportunities in life that everyone should be awarded.