Sing, play, perform, say advocates for music in the schools
Boston — Expect your world soon to resound with more good music. Its source: your local public schools, which are broadening their traditional, predominantly parental audiences to include others in the community whose support they seek.
''Youthful musicians singing and performing - that's the most effective way we can persuade decisionmakers to keep music taught in schools,'' says Dr. Russell P. Getz, president of the Music Educators National Conference (MENC), whose eastern division met here Feb. 23-26.
''What we mean by 'music advocacy' (the conference theme this year) is helping legislators andtaxpayers understand the value of music to our young people.
''Lowell Mason, who introduced music into the curriculum of the Boston public schools in 1837, argued that school music is 'a mighty power which will humanize , elevate, and refine the whole country.' Patriotism, inspiration, and community service are values inseparable from school music. We don't plan our music curriculum to instill these values, they're just inherent in the music itself. They're side benefits of the aesthetic sensitivity which is our primary goal.''
Dr. Getz is concerned that for too many young people music has become a spectator sport. ''Talking about music isn't important; making music is,'' he insists.
Nor is making music important only for young people. ''Senior citizens, barbershoppers, people of all ages in continuing-education programs accept musicmaking as an important part of their lives,'' adds Dr. Paul L. Gayzagian, president of MENC's 10,500-member eastern division, one of six regional divisions. MENC has a total membership of 51,000 plus 13,000 student members who are prospective music teachers.
Dr. Getz says he feels teaching music in the primary grades is particularly important, since children learn most avidly in the early years: ''Expecting a classroom teacher who hasn't been trained for it to teach music represents a big loss to the music instruction in the high school years. It just turns the music curriculum upside down.''
Conference sessions focused on gifted and handicapped students, developing a comprehensive music program, career education, continuing education, and multicultural awareness.
Student musicians who performed for the 2,500 music educators attending the conference came from schools throughout the eastern division. The gala festival concert on Saturday was given by a high school orchestra, high school chorus, and high school band made up of young people selected from every state in the division. They came to Boston for just two days of rehearsal preceding their performance.
The patriotic and inspirational music these groups presented reinforced a comment by Dr. Gayzagian that ''school music is a needed antidote to the rock music with which young people are bombarded in our culture.''
''What we need to counter,'' Dr. Getz says, ''is the notion that music and arts education is peripheral to the lives of people. It's basic. The struggle to get music into the schools was accomplished a long time ago. Our job is to keep it there. People who don't have children in school now have a louder voice in making educational policy than those who do. We have to remind these decisionmakers of the value of what we're offering. I think schools must play anywhere - yes, everywhere - to win wide public support for a part of the curriculum that provides necessary balance to our lives.''
Both Dr. Getz and Dr. Gayzagian would like to encourage young people to choose careers in music education. ''The jobs are there, and the rewards are there,'' Dr. Gayzagian says.