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Liner Notes

Music education connects students to humanity

A look at music education in 2017


We grow up with music all around us.

Its in movies, TV shows, playing over the speakers in stores and shops, and can be heard blaring out of car windows on the road.

But I didn’t start understanding music until I got to school.

I don’t have a lot of memories of actual class time at Fremont Elementary in Jefferson County, but some of my most vivid memories are from music class. We sang songs together, learned a little about music notes, and tried our hands at becoming the world’s best recorder player.

Needless to say, the latter didn’t happen, but I did come away with a lifelong love of music.

So it gives me great pleasure to report that students in schools all over the Denver Metro Area still have many of the same opportunities I had.

“Every neighborhood school in Jeffco has music in it, and our middle and high schools have choir, band and orchestra programs,” said Lee Andres, music and theater curriculum coordinator with Jeffco schools. “We’d always like to see more, but the state of music education in Jeffco is thriving.”

A good music education goes beyond opportunity — it also means a diversity of offerings. Not just classes for those interested in performing, but options to learn about the aesthetic or business side.

Orlando Otis, music teacher at Legend High School in Douglas County, knows the importance of this firsthand — in addition to performance classes, he teaches music appreciation and music technology.

“These classes give me time with students I wouldn’t normally see,” Otis said. “So many students love music, and it’s my job to give options to as many of them as I can.”

One of my favorite classes at Ralston Valley High School was a music appreciation class I took from longtime music educator Ken Sawyer. It provided me a sense of context on some of the music I was already enjoying, and opened up a new appreciation for classical pieces.

And exposure to music, especially at a young age, can be extremely important. According to the National Association for Music Education, learning about music helps develop language and reasoning, mastery of memorization, increased coordination and discipline.

From the site:

Kids who study the arts can learn to think creatively. This kind of education can help them solve problems by thinking outside the box and realizing that there may be more than one right answer.

One of the things that makes music education special, according to Andres, is that it’s a group learning experience for students.

“So much of school is focused on individualized learning, but music class provides more a social experience,” he said. “Music is one of the oldest human activities, and its one of the things we’re able to bring to students that feeds the soul.”

Both Andres and Otis agree that the important part of music education is not turning students into professional musicians, but getting them involved in music — something they can do for the rest of their lives.

“Music education is just as important as the academic courses because it gives students a place to belong,” Otis said. “You can catch a kid and help them find their identity in a way you can’t in other areas.”

As someone who discovered themselves through music, I will never fully be able to repay the debt to those who taught me about the art early on. We owe it to all future generations to keep the music playing on and on.

Clarke Reader’s column on how music connects to our lives appears every other week. A community editor with Colorado Community Media, he still wishes he was a master recorderi player Check out his music blog at calmacil20.blogspot.com. And share your favorite music class stories at creader@coloradocommunitymedia.com.


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