On the social media there was a post with a video of a school band performing during the interval of a basketball match. The caption said “When will we have such performances from our school bands in India”. It took my memories back to school days when we thought that music was not our cup of tea and joining the school band was a sheer waste of time as it did not provide any extra marks and did cut into one’s free time. Mr Gudu Saheb, our Band Master tried his level best to teach me the notes of music, but they all looked to me like a few designs all coming to eat me up. That was it, I gave up not to even look back at it. Having realised my school folly as one grew up; it was too late to learn music at that belated stage. Now the only option available was to ensure that our children learned music at their young age.
Why the school bands in India do not have such good standards and such good performances when compared to those in North America? The main reason could be attributed to our notion that it does not bring in marks. In North American schools, band or music is part of the curriculum and it brings marks with it.
As band/music is part of the North American school curriculum, the music teachers are graduates in music and some are post-graduates. Our son’s music teacher in Grade 10 was a post graduate in English and music and that year he taught Nikhil both the subjects. During a meeting with him I asked him as to how he got into the two. He said music was his passion and English was his interest and hence studied both. In India, the band is trained by an ex-bandmaster from the Army or from the police and has no formal qualification in music. The qualification of music teachers back home leaves a lot desired, even though plenty of talent with graduate and post-graduate qualifications in music are available. Music does not form part of the School Board Exams and is limited to performances in Youth Festivals in most schools in India. The reality TV competitions have encouraged parents to impart music training to their children.
Unlike in North America, where the time spent for rehearsing and performing a band routine is counted towards community service hours required for graduation, in India no such advantages is accrued by the children. The most they get for a performance in India may be a T-shirt or a meal.
Music helps to bring out the best in young people. It nourishes self-esteem and keeps them engaged. Promoting music in schools provides students with interests that take up considerable time and energy outside the academic activities. Students become involved in extracurricular activities and by being busy with music-related activities helps to keep students away from getting involved in the kinds of negative activities that lead to serious problems, such as drugs and alcohol.
Musical training has a profound impact on other skills including speech and language, memory and attention, and even the ability to convey emotions vocally. Children who have had music lessons tend to have a larger vocabulary and better reading ability than those who haven’t had any musical training.
Music education helps in a child’s overall development intellectually, socially and emotionally. Music offers creative challenges and aesthetic appreciation as well as self-expression and self-discovery opportunities. Music education fosters emotional maturity, as students learn to set and achieve personal goals. Time management, self-assessment, the ability to accept criticism and performance skills are all important attributes students learn through music education.
Music education plays a big part leading to personal development, such as self-discipline, dedication, teamwork, self-confidence and practice. All these values and the behaviours that demonstrate them are necessary to be a well-rounded person in all realms of life. Although these values are taught through other disciplines in various ways, the importance of learning them through music education in schools is that they translate into other disciplines so naturally. Students who enjoy music can easily transfer the habits learned to pursue their music to academic subjects.
Scientists have also discovered that learning to read music or play a musical instrument develops higher thinking skills. This means that children who learn music in schools are better problem-solvers and are better at analysis and overall critical thinking, because studying or playing music uses the same part of the brain that is used in mathematical thinking. Music education can help promote better math students.
The importance of music in schools is that it fosters the kind of discipline that contributes to the development of personality traits and characteristics that bring one success in all of life’s endeavors. Music education helps develop overall intelligence, which translates to success in academic subjects in school. Music education also opens doors socially and culturally. All these factors lead to success in life.