In recent times, music education has been gaining importance on mental and emotional development of children and adults. This has been back with numerous researches and studies. In fact, Aristotle and Plato, believed that music has a very crucial impact on children. It is not about a hobby or pastime but the skills developed in music help in dealing with life situations of managing stress and emotions. The artistry in music is to evoke emotions through music. Remember, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the musician is emotional or going through those emotions, our artistry lies in our ability to move and entertain the audience. In order to do that, it is not just playing the notes or few sounds but how, when and why those notes are being played. It is a mental training of discipline, persistence, and consistency.
How is it different than other mainstream subjects like English, math or science? To begin with, the ability to connect with another human. When musicians come together to play, they may belong to different backgrounds of nationalities, cultures, religions or philosophies but when they play, they are in harmony communicating through melodies and rhythm. And for the untrained, such conversations can be appreciated, if not joined. If music education develops the emotional quotient of children, why is it underrated? It’s simple, our education system hasn’t prioritized it.
The problem stems from lack of quality trainers, lack of professional development and lack of social infrastructure. In many countries, there is no dearth of music trainers and tutors but there is dearth of quality (almost the case for most disciplines, more so in music, arts and sports). In some countries, education degrees focus on the mainstream subjects but it’s rare to find specializing in music.. And there are many countries, where the trainers have minimum qualification, teaching advanced music, at times through hit and trial method, mainly on their luck that they have sincere and hardworking students (which most students are).
Even with the minimum qualification, many trainers are not motivated to develop themselves professionally, preferring the same routine. They will teach the same way they were taught, at times, blindly mimicking a system that does more harm than good, especially with changing learning perspectives and needs. However, the pandemic has forced everyone to adjust to the new normal where many have realized that the old and conventional way of teaching music will not do. Those who are willing to educate themselves have survived the economic setbacks that the pandemic has presented and now they are thriving, connecting themselves further to the world. But there are also those who couldn’t manage and faced huge financial losses.
The third problem is the lack of social infrastructure. This is more to do with a rational approach towards music education. In societies, where the basic needs of food, housing and clothing are not met, education, especially music education takes a back seat. And when a society has a fairly developed education system, the problem is dissected further from society to individual level. Everything has a price tag as a cost or an investment.
In the initial years, society and individuals invest heavily in education in order to be able to complete elementary level. However, as the child grows, they show innate skills that require specialize learning, which take place at senior secondary level. Some parents take initiatives to explore various disciplines further by enrolling them for extra tuitions and extracurricular activities, that they will help their children to expand their learning potential in the hope of better opportunities to excel in different aspects of their lives. However, this comes with a price. Those who can take the financial risks, define it as an investment for their future. But it becomes a cost when they couldn’t make good of the price paid. This is where the value of music education becomes questionable. It’s the economics of music learning.
Furthermore, music learning requires a supportive environment at home in terms of supervised practice schedules, motivational learning and in schools, through graded assessments of external exams and frequent recitals, showcasing the student’s achievements. Not all students are self-motivated to learn music, they need encouragement from their home environment. And the learning journey is the same as all journeys, it is set with progressing challenges that develop technique and artistry where it tests their patience and perseverance. The end result for students is the satisfaction of achieving to play an instrument, whereas the objective of music education should be gratification of the opportunity and ability to learn an instrument, where many are deprived of, due to their circumstances.
So, yes, music education has a lot more to offer, it is grossly underrated. Remember good music education is accessible to those who can afford it but the pandemic has brought potential for equity rather than equality in education, even music education, the next question lies now to harness this opportunity for the betterment of everyone.