The Day the Music Died: Why Schools Refuse to Teach Music and the Arts to Children, … And Why It’s Making Our Kids Sicker, Dumber, and Less Open and Able

“A long, long time ago,

I can still remember

How that music used to make me smile.

And I knew that if I had that chance,

I could make those people dance,

And maybe they’d be happy for a while.”

American Pie, originally recorded and sung by Don McClean

What I just quoted was something I might have to undoubtedly tell my great-grandkids.  IF we had no music, what would I see in my little descendants?  When I was six or so, my TVI, music teacher, and some regular ed teachers I’ve known, all encouraged me to become the musician I seek to be today.  I loved playing piano, and I credit Michelle Hulsema for teaching a wonderful song after a wonderful song, one classical composer after another.  Mrs. Hulsema had lots of wonderful things to say about music, but for one thing, she wasn’t a certified piano teacher.  My mother, however, wanted a pianist to teach me who wasn’t scared to teach a blind person, and most musical teachers won’t deal with blind kids because they want to teach theory.  Hulsema taught me and my brothers, but I was by far her star student in my family.  We don’t know if there are any more Hulsemas out there who can teach piano, and this is why.  The music in our schools is slowly dying, and I hate to say this, but we could, according to Don McLean, be singing durges in the dark.  But then, people will start sacrificing things to Satan, and there will be planes spelling the Devil’s name in the sky.  Then, McLean has a line in there saying, “I saw Satan laughing with delight the day the music died.”  Music is like praying twice according to Cindy Maun, a Parochial schoolteacher who has taught music to me and my brothers at St. Teresa’s Catholic.  She was a solace to me, and her musical teaching may die down and may never come back.  Maun would tell us a million ways that God created music.  The Bible clearly states that to praise God, we must be free to “make a joyful noise.”  In David’s psalms, there is some sort of musical reference all the time.  King David’s entire Psalter can be sung, and Catholics are known to sing the Psalms.  What if schools, both private and public, stopped the music though?  This is a trend happening in public schools because of math and reading and science demands.

While blind kids can learn STEM professions–science, tech, engineering, and math–and still be going strong cognitively, I don’t believe that they should only be black and white thinkers.  We need to think and see and feel colors.  The only way to do this is to bring back arts and require them in schools.

All the blind kids I knew in my life, and my blind boyfriend all have had some sort of musical exposure.  IF you saw Blake out Christmas caroling, he’d have the demand of the songs over and over.  I learned such songs practically from birth.  I learned to sing Christmas songs even while out, and that was because music was all over our curriculum in schools.  One thing that kept me and still does keep me from being totally out of the body is music.  Music and artistic things such as writing in a blog, writing poetry, and creating things, imagining stuff, so on and so forth, keeps me thinking, active, and somehow healthy enough to think clearly.  IF I did not have music in my school curriculum and so on, I would be done.  Dead.  Gone.  Where would anyone be without music?  Like I mentioned, the Psalms were musical things, and King David wanted a way to express his love of the Lord God.  So he wrote and sang things while herding sheep.  This was in the days when he was a shepherd.  There are in the Psalter some good psalms, dark ones, happy ones, ones where David complains.  He’s expressing himself because at least someone taught him the harp.  HE was the son of Jesse, son of Obed.  Obed was descended from Ruth and Naomi, and we know the story of Ruth.  The whole thing contains a story we all know as the story of Jesus.

Angels are depicted as having done something … well, musical.  What would angels do if music died?  While music is so important in both modern and Biblical times, we must not forget what music will do if we don’t keep doing it.  There’s a cute song I sang once about Snoopy the dog and his Christmas adventure.  Him and the Bloody Red Baron, right?  He and a German pilot were fighting in this song, but then, we can’t forget the magic of Christmas bells.

The big thing about music is this: schools will only play militant music.  With groups like Isis out there, Muslims demanding that the “call of the Devil”, or sometimes “the Adan of Satan” be removed from schools, the districts who are so incensed with … the evil and hellish standardized crap called state exit tests remove music and artistic things from Schools.  It pleases Satan and the Terrorist groups and the ones who hate God to remove Music from schools.  Budgets are never put out there to provide music instruments for poor children, so no, nobody gets music and art in school.

Now, let’s go a few lines away from the first verse of American Pie, which I quoted here.  Don McLean’s intent for this song was to talk about a musician that died and how the world would end.  I chose the title of this post because yes, the music will die sometime, and it kind of is already.  Schools are teaching not real education, but bubble sheet answers instead.  According to Brian Crosby, who by the way is one of my favorite teachers and authors, you can go on any School District’s website and you will see a section on something like “test scores and accountability” or “AYP ranking.”  I dare any mom of a student to do this, and see where you end up.  Anywhere from Alabama to Arizona to Florida to Maine.  Look carefully at your child’s school district’s website and see what the students’ testing requirements are.

But where is the choral and band programs for high schoolers?  Patricia Kingery was one of the most highly regarded elementary music teachers in the locale of Brevard County, but we don’t have enough of her to go around.  What will happen without Mrs. Kingery?  She has the highest levels of music going on in her classes from what others have told me.  I have witnessed Mrs. Chatman, one of my band director’s associates, working so well with middle school students.  There are many band directors I will admire forever but will my kids ever get to meet guys like Ian Schwindt, Robbyn Ryan, Jennifer Zahn, etc.?  These guys really knew what music was, taught music like it was meant to be taught.  IF Schwindt’s band program was cut completely from THS, I would say the words of Mclean’s song all the way through.  Then, when my children  are born and brought up, I will have to say the first lines of the song.  Not only that, THS will turn into a test taking factory, and so many other schools have done this.  Schwindt and Zahn and others could lose the chances to share the high culture with the young.  This is our only hope.  Music only makes us grow harder and better.

What are the benefits for disabled kids and able kids alike?  Well, start at birth.  Let’s use a composite sketch.  Milly is literally in pain in the hospital, gives birth six or three month premature to a baby girl, Katie.  Katie is so frail that the nurses think she’s going to be brain damaged.  But then, the scientific and musical therapists from a Tallahassee university that Schwindt and Zahn attended, and even I did, would roll out the Musical Pacifier and other musical toys for Katie to mess with.  Milly grows more hopeful that Katie will grow up and be a better person.

By the time little Katie turns four, Milly and her husband decide to teach her the piano, and she remembers how music saved her life.  If I had a baby in my care, if the baby cried, I’d sing and yes, maybe find myself a bit in tears.  Singing lullabies to babies in a certain rhythm calms them down and it’s so cool to do this.  African mothers are known to do this, and don’t realize the scientific benefits from doing so.  A Masai mother sings a lullaby to her little child while the child is in her arms.  There is a rhythmic refrain in the young woman’s voice as she sings.  She may not have a defined pitch, but the rhythm of music calms the crying and fussy little baby.

Let’s listen in on a study that some nurses did on babies that were never sung to, held, or loved.  When we see people who don’t know the highest forms of music, we will see disastrous results.  First of all, a real study was done and the babies, after having been left alone, not held, not sung to and all, died.  All of those infants died.  It was sad, and trust me, I will do the exact opposite of the nurses.  It was sad to hear that study, and it made me realize how infants are gifts from God.

IF anything, music is not just for the little ones.  When a child grows up and runs about the house, the next step is musical shows and toys.  I would bring out the ones that have songs, fake musical instruments, or I’d show them the real thing.  If, for instance, my dad threw in the trumpet, that would be fun.  I once had a percussion set with the drumsticks and that stuff.  It also had a tambourine, cymbals, and a xylophone.  I learned all the basics, then you know what else I did?  I played with tinker piano toys.  My grandmother swears I played a real song at only two years old.  It’s music that saved my place in the family, but ironically, the dream of making it in music was what drove me away from the family itself.

Today, the Chrstina Aguileras and Britney Spearses are being given too much grooming, and their music is nothing more than junk food for the ones who should be eating Mozart.  No, not literally eating, but feasting their souls on Mozart and the Psalter.  I loved the high culture music, the classical stuff, all the analysis I did in theory helped.  I never learned from Schwindt and Zahn, but I did learn later from some really great professors from the former Brevard Community College, today known as Eastern Florida State College.  Claire Baggerly was a clarinet professor and theory instructor I studied under.  She encouraged me to use my early techniques to compose closed-score music things, and I learned to use Lyme Aloud simply by playing around and figuring it out.  With technology being all important and music coinciding with it, I was able to write printed music.  Baggerly instructed me on micro and macro analyses, and I learned a lot.  So much so that I also learned about how annoying the canon in D Major really was, and how rock musicians got their inspirations.  A comedian that I love so much posted the Pochelbel Rant on YouTube, which Baggerly showed us in class, and I laughed along with the rest.  It’s so true.  Johan Pochelbel wrote what the guy called a really annoying song, and he used the cello part to explain how annoying it is.

What would happen without Claire Baggerly and the music department of EFSC?  BCC, now known as Eastern Florida State College, would die with the music not being present.  I felt at peace with that class, and hated to leave the classes.

When Baggerly left the college, so did I.  But when I left my music studies due to access barriers and the control of my family and my lack of independence skills, realizing I needed said skills, I also had to change majors and career choices, but now I have no career.  I wish I had the ability to dream about the life I would want as a musician.  I want to write music that inspires and awakens, but if schools want to cut music, they will do nothing but teach people how to bubble an answer sheet and put together robots.

Not that robots are bad.  I don’t think science is evil.  I don’t think math is evil though I personally loathe it.  I loathe mathematical equations so much that I wish I could burn my textbook … Jimmy Buffet, are you here?  Math sucks!

But music allowed Mr. Buffet to say this whole thing, “Mat sucks.”  He actually wrote the best stuff to say about math and life itself, but if he hadn’t at least learned a bit of music in school, he wouldn’t be Jimmy Buffet from Margaritaville.  Alan Jackson wouldn’t have had a duet partner and all that five o’clock somewhere stuff would not be so popular.  Dear school district boards and politicians, I want you all to do me a favor and force yourselves to reflect on how music affected your lives.  Music is in all ways important, and as a blind person, I found it better than 2d artwork.  I hate and still hate coloring, and I wish I could have stickered up a notebook with flowers.  So what?  I loved and still love music.  It is my life, my breathing moment, my peace of mind.

Now, will you meet a girl who sings the blues?  Let’s just say that she comes across you.  Don McLean again.

“I met a girl who sang the blues,

And I asked her for some happy news,

But she just smiled and turned away.

Well, I went down to the sacred store

Where I heard the music years before,

But the men there said the music wouldn’t play.

Now in the streets, the children screamed,

The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed,

But not a word was spoken,

The church bells all were broken.

Then the three men I admired the most,\

The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost,

They took the last train for the coast.

The day the music died.”

American Pie, last verse, originally sung by Don McLean

Author: denverqueen

My name is Beth. I'm blind from birth and enjoy the blogging atmosphere. I am a creative person, a musician, a writer, etc. This is me. Take it or leave it.

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