A Stage Name? Why Not Dance a Bit More?

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I gently kicked the vintage, boxy suitcase that was on the floor between me and a group of 15 second graders. The suitcase literally vibrated with all types of rattling, clanging and ringing sounds.

“You want to see what’s in there?”, I asked.

They erupted, “Yes!”

I opened the suitcase to reveal more than 20 percussion instruments of various sizes, makes, functions and models. In a frenzy, they began to reach for them.

“Woah! Wait a second”, I instructed. “If you want to play one of those, you have to do something first.”

“What?”, they asked in unison.

“You need to think up a stage name. This is a music class and one of the best things about playing music is that you can make up a new name for yourself. You can have your regular name and you can have your music name. I have one”, I revealed. “My real name is John. But when I play music, I’m Willie Marble. It’s cool to have a stage name. It’s lots of fun.”

One of the best things about teaching second graders is that they believe just about anything you tell them. And they are game to try just about anything.

Some may consider it a bit silly or foolish for a 60 year-old man to have a make believe name and persona. But there is a long history of musicians with stage names. Muddy Waters’ real name was McKinley Morganfield. Howlin’ Wolf’s was Chester Burnett. And that’s simply a start. Jay Z’s real name is Shawn Carter, Stephanie Germanotta is Lady Gaga and Dana Owens’s stage name is Queen Latifah.

Not to be outdone, the names these kids came up with were priceless: Lion Slayer, Crazy Bone, Lightning Bolt, Jeffrey McMoe, Funky Nose, Princess Cotton Candy, Howlin’ Hound Dog and Ruby Jewels to name only a few. And stage names are for adults as well. The three background singers in my current band each has a stage name, Queen Victoria, Honey Bee and Jackie Thunder. Together they comprise the “World Famous Marblettes”.

Having a second name and identity allows a certain amount of freedom to step outside yourself. For performers, that can be an advantage. One of the most important characteristics of music and art is that it allows for the individual to “color outside the lines” without being unduly penalized or chastised. It allows you the extra space to stretch your imagination, vision and sense of self. A stage name and alternative persona allows you to be a bit silly, act a bit foolish and stretch and test the boundaries of creativity. That’s one of the reasons why music is the most effective tool in our educational arsenal to teach out-of-the-box, creative thinking.

And while that is all great and valuable, the fact is, it’s also just plain fun. And if you can’t have fun playing music, what’s the point? As Margaret Renkl recently wrote in the NY Times, “A person who is not afraid of looking like a fool gets to do a lot more dancing”.

Having a stage name and alternative identity can be lots of fun. Although, as a general rule, if you begin to assume four or five alter egos or identities, you might want to seek some professional help.

But one or two? Why not take the opportunity to dance a bit more?

Guns for Teachers? How About More Violins for Students?

Originally published in Lancaster Online on May 25th, 2018


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As I walked home from the March for our Lives rally for gun control and school safety in Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s Binns Park, being one of millions of participants in the estimated 800 events worldwide, I couldn’t help but think, “Maybe…possibly…this time will be different.”
The typical reaction to school shootings has been a burst of public outrage, prayers for the victims and their families, calls for change, pushback from the NRA and then soon forgotten as the next big news story emerges.

But this feels different.

It is being lead by young people with their boundless energy, pure ideals and the fact that they know how to effectively leverage social media. And not only have they not been bought off by the NRA, many of the young leaders of the March for Our Lives movement have stared the realities of school gun violence right in the face as they have witnessed first hand, their classmates being gunned down in cold blood by weapons of war. Theirs is a generation where, since the Columbine massacre in 1999, 187,000 students have experienced a shooting on their campus (Timothy Egan, New York Times, March 31, 2018).

That’s a very powerful combination.

If this time is truly different, it’s about time. Kids don’t feel safe in their schools and the rest of us don’t feel safe in our communities.

And if this time is truly different, lawmakers and community leaders will begin to allocate resources to address not only gun control generally, but also school safety, which is the focus of this essay.

If this time is truly different, school boards and community leaders will face some very important decisions regarding how to efficiently and effectively allocate those resources to make our schools safer. And the fundamental challenge is how to strategically “harden” the outside perimeter of our schools?

To date, the dialogue surrounding this challenge has fallen into three categories.
First, arm teachers. This however, is not a credible solution as the vast majority of teachers oppose it. My sister has been a second grade teacher for 35 years. While I love her dearly, if I was the parent of one of her students’, I’d be terrified of arming her. The fact is, more guns in the classroom will result in more accidental firings and deaths.

Second, hiring, arming and training additional security guards. And, finally, “hardening” the school perimeter with more checkpoints, barriers, metal detectors, video cameras and additional safety features.

While it can be argued that the second and third measures can make schools “safer”, the larger question is whether they will make them “better”. There is no denying that a consequential byproduct of hardening school perimeters will be that their look, feel and operations will become significantly more “militarized”.

While the point is not to downplay the need to harden school perimeters, there is another part of an intelligent, strategic and sensible approach to this problem that should also be considered. What will be the impact of children being forced to learn in a more militarized environment? And what can be done to mitigate those impacts?

Effective learning is greatly impacted by the environment and school atmosphere within which teaching and learning take place. That environment must be welcoming, nurturing and joyous. Those are not terms typically associated with armed guards, checkpoints, barriers and video cameras. If we are going to “harden” our school perimeters, we have a responsibility to our children to make sure we correspondingly invest in things that will “soften” the inside of schools. We must strategically consider appropriate measures to counterbalance that increased militarization by making the learning environment within schools more nurturing and joyous.
Fortunately, we know the types of educational activities and programs that make school learning environments more welcoming, nurturing, joyous and therapeutic: music and the arts. Not only do children learn better, but teachers enjoy teaching more when surrounded by beauty, creativity and joy. Research tells us that music and the arts create a more nurturing, joyous and therapeutic learning environment.

Stated more directly, rather than placing a gun in the hands of my sister, why not place more instruments in the hands of her students?

If our schools are going to become increasingly “hardened” and “militarized” on the outside, it is important that once within that militarized perimeter, the halls and classrooms within the school are joyous places where the thoughts of fear of violence or school shootings are relegated to the back of students’ minds. In such a “locked down” environment, the arts, more than any other educational tool at our disposal, can do that.

A result of these marches will likely be that lawmakers and school leaders will find money to add security personnel and safety measures that will result in a more “militaristic, locked down” school environment. At the same time, history tells us that they won’t hesitate, if money needs to be found in existing budgets to fund new programs or when programs need to be reduced or cut in a budget crunch, funding for activities such as music, theater and the arts often suffer.

Even without taking into account the need for additional security, it is educationally sound to invest in the arts as they are essential to providing an education worthy of the 21st Century.
Due to their universal nature and clear educational benefits, music and the arts are not simply an extra-curricular or co-curricular activity but can, if used strategically and effectively serve as the “glue” that holds together the entire core curriculum. For example, music is math. Music is reading. Music is language. And music is logic. As a result, music in some form can be incorporated into virtually any subject matter or academic curriculum to enhance learning and understanding thus leading to powerful learning opportunities across disciplines.

Additionally, we must instill in students the ability to navigate our increasingly multicultural, complex and integrated world. Music, as the universal language, clearly has the capacity to reach across cultural boundaries like no other activity. Another subject that must be considered a core aspect of a 21st century education is creativity. The ability to think outside the box to address increasingly complex issues and challenges and to make new and different connections that lead to exciting discoveries and knowledge will be one of, if not the most important characteristic that students must possess to be successful in a globalized world. Music is our most effective educational tool to encourage and develop creativity. Music and the arts are also therapeutic, providing young people who feel alienated, isolated and confused within the traditional educational setting opportunities to “find themselves”. The arts offer activities and a community that makes them feel they belong as opposed to feeling like an outcast. One of the most valuable characteristics of the arts is that they are inclusive, forgiving and nurturing. It’s a place of belonging. There is tremendous value in that. I‘m no social scientist, but my guess is that many of the school shooters feel they are ostracized and outcasts.

Enhancing school safety in an age of easy access to deadly firearms in a pervasive gun culture is a complicated issue. Simply increasing investment in music and the arts in our schools will certainly not solve the problem. That said, neither will a collective knee-jerk reaction to simply further militarize schools.

If this time is truly different, significant resources to enhance school safety will very likely be coming down the pike. That being the case, it is critical that school and community leaders allocate those resources wisely. Rather than simply adding more armed guards, check points and metal detectors and then wiping our hands clean and stating our mission of making our schools “safer” accomplished, we must think outside the box to make our schools not simply safer, but better.

Life Lessons From the Blues: CeDell Davis

It’s not often that an obituary sticks in your head for more than a week, let alone six months.

I can’t get the life story of CeDell Davis out of my head. Davis was a Delta bluesman from Arkansas who used a knife for a guitar slide to create a sound, described by New York Times  music critic Robert Palmer, as “a guitar style that is utterly unique, in or out of the blues.”

He passed away on September 27, 2017 at age 91. It always saddens me to hear of the passing of a Delta blues musician as it represents another lost link to the soul of America. Not only does it represent a lost link to an original American art form, but in the case of CeDell Davis, a loss of a living example of the fundamental American ideal that if you work hard and persevere, despite facing many obstacles, you can make a life for yourself and add to the wonderful cultural mosaic of our society. 

Davis was one of those many blues musicians who, for many years, toiled in relative obscurity. According to Jon Pareles’ obituary in the NY Times (Oct. 12, 2017), Davis performed around the South in juke joints and house parties before a broader audience got a chance to hear his electrified rural blues in the 1980’s.

That sounds like a fairly standard story for Delta bluesmen of that era. But as I read about the life he lead, my jaw dropped. While there are all types of colorful stories recalled when remembering blues musicians, never had I read a more inspiring story about the human will to persevere in the face of one daunting challenge after another. He was a model in sheer determination in pursuing his passion for music.

If curious, YouTube him. I’d suggest “CeDell Explains Boogie Woogie”. There’s no word to accurately describe how this cat approached, created and performed music. In fact, I went to the dictionary and a book of synonyms to find one. There is no word. You’ve simply got to see and hear him.  
 
Born in Helena Arkansas on June 9, 1926, he learned to play guitar and harmonica at an early age. But at age 10, he contracted polio leaving him with partly paralyzed arms and legs, requiring crutches to walk.  The polio crippled his right (natural) playing hand to the point where he had to turn his guitar around and play left handed. As if that wasn’t hard enough, his left hand, while less crippled, would still not allow him to play chords with his fingers in the traditional way. He improvised and began playing with a knife, sliding it along the strings.

As a teenager, he played street corners and juke joints in and around Helena and began appearing on live blues radio shows on KFFA such as ”King Biscuit Time” with Sonny Boy Williamson and “Bright Star Flour” with Robert Nighthawk.

So there here we was, challenged with the affects of polio, but making the best of it by adjusting his playing technique to where he was making a living as a musician. If the story ended there, it would be a great one.

But the story doesn’t end there. And in a nod to the time-honored lore of Blues history, the next chapter began with a gun being drawn in a nightclub.

(A side note: My personal favorite Blues story of a gun in a nightclub was recounted by James Segrest and Mark Hoffman in their 2004 biography of legendary Bluesman Chester “Howlin’ Wolf” Burnett, “Moanin’ at Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin’ Wolf.” Wolf’s drummer at the time was Sam Lay, an eccentric sort, who was quite a “ladies man”. Lay always carried a snub nosed .38 pistol in his front pocket as “insurance” in the event that a jealous boyfriend or husband entered the club looking to settle a score with him. The story goes that one night, in the midst of some particularly aggressive drumming, the gun discharged and he shot off his own testicle. Talk about hitting the down beat!)

That gun in that nightclub in East St. Louis in 1957 started a stampede. Davis and Mr. Nighthawk were playing that evening and by the end of the night, Davis had sustained multiple fractures to his legs left him confined to a wheelchair.

But once again, he refused to let that stop him from playing his music. He continued to work the juke joint circuit and eventually was “discovered” by Palmer, who befriended him and championed his music. Shortly thereafter, Davis began working the national and international blues circuit. Mr. Palmer then brought him to the Fat Possum record label where he recorded his 1994 debut album, “Feel Like Doin’ Something Wrong”.

Along the way, musicians such as Mick Jagger, Yoko Ono, guitarist Peter Buck from R.E.M and Mike McCready from Pearl Jam became admirers and/or collaborators.

So there you have the makings of a wonderful story of perseverance.

But that’s still not the end of his story.

In 2005, Davis had a stroke, which by most any standard classifies as a major set back.  As a result, he lost the ability to play the guitar. All he had left was the ability to sing. So that’s what he did.

By then, he was living in a nursing home. Apparently, that didn’t slow him down either as he returned to performing in 2009 and released two more albums “Last Man Standing” in 2015 and “Even the Devil Gets the Blues” in 2016.

His story is worth recapping. He was debilitated as a result of polio, confined to a wheelchair as a result of a bar room stampede, unable to play the guitar after suffering a stroke, moved into a nursing home, and with only his voice to draw upon, still found the drive and courage to continue to perform concerts and record albums.

If I ever have to stay in a nursing home, I hope whoever is in the next room is some cat as inspiring as CeDell Davis.

CeDell Davis simply refused to give up. He lived a remarkable life, exhibiting the tremendous power the human will to persevere, to move forward and continue on the road ahead. It also illustrates the power and allure of music. He refused to let difficult circumstances or events keep him from playing his music and moving forward with his life. He not only left us with his music, but he also provided an inspiring life lesson and example of how to persevere in the face of profoundly difficult challenges.

That’s a powerful Life lesson from the Blues.

His campaign slogan? A conga in every home!

originally published on LNP on April 7th


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Today, I am announcing my candidacy for president of the United States of America. If a former reality TV personality can become president of the United States, why not me?

 

I did not come to this decision without deep thought and much research. My first step was to find an example of a presidential campaign and slogan that every American, regardless of race, creed or socio-economic status, could agree upon and revise it to apply to today’s world.

Herbert Hoover's 1928 campaign slogan offers an excellent example:

“A chicken in every pot.”

While Hoover’s presidency is regarded by many as a disaster (it’s widely agreed that his economic policies deepened the effects of the Great Depression), it’s hard to argue that he didn’t have a great campaign slogan. (A brief historical side note:  Hoover’s slogan was actually, “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” But with the rise of ride services such as Uber and Lyft and driverless cars soon to be taking over the roads, the car part doesn’t apply today.)

My platform’s central planks are education, health care, economic development, gun control, investment in research and development, strengthening the family, support of activities that will unify our nation and improving international relations.

So with a humble heart and great respect for the American people, I offer my campaign slogan and central policy initiative.

“A conga in every home!”

What better way to address the issues of education, health care, economic development, gun control, investment in research and development, family values and a deeply divided nation and world than bringing music into every home?

This is why I believe my platform is good for America:

Education: The research is clear that involvement in music education boosts academic performance, increases test scores and improves math, reading, language and logic skills and outcomes. Research also tells us that implementing an integrated arts curriculum has a positive impact on teachers’ attitudes and school climate. The result is that students benefit because happier teachers are better teachers and a more positive school environment is a more effective learning environment.

Health care: Seemingly every day we read about doctors using music in new, creative ways to address depression, manage pain, and slow or mitigate the effects of conditions such as dementia. Health care professionals are only beginning to scratch the surface in applying the healing powers of music to drive positive health benefits.

Economic impact: Research tells us that strategic investment in arts and culture initiatives can generate significant economic benefits for cities of all sizes. Lancaster is a prime example of that impact.

Gun control: Simply stated, it’s much better for people to have instruments in their hands than guns.

Investment in research and development: In this fast-paced, integrated global economy and world community, the challenges we face, whether related to the environment, education, health care or global politics, are becoming more complex. Effectively addressing these increasingly complex issues will require the development of a corresponding increase in the creativity of our populace so they can develop creative solutions to these problems. And the most effective tool in our educational and community arsenal to teach creativity and thinking outside the box is music.

Strengthening the family: What could possibly be a better way to bring families closer than sitting around a conga drum playing music and singing songs? Sharing musical experiences is a tremendous way to improve communication and promote love and understanding among people.

Unifying our nation: We must invest in things that can bring our deeply divided nation together. As the universal language, music has the unparalleled power to bring people of all backgrounds together.

Strengthening international relations: Finally, not only can music strengthen our families here at home, it also can serve as a vital tool to enhance international relations. Music's potential to foster understanding and build bridges between disparate cultures and nations is enormous. Thus, my administration will work to expand the “A Conga in Every Home” initiative to homes throughout the world.

These policies will provide a solid blueprint for the future of America.

I hope you will join me in this journey to the White House in 2020. Together, we will put a conga in every home.

Now get out there and knock on some doors and spread the word!

I am John Gerdy, and I approved this message.

The Times They Are a Changing: Sports, Music and Social Change

One of the most important and powerful impacts of sports is in the universe of social change, particularly as it relates to diversity and civil rights. The fundamental principles that drive progress in these areas are tolerance, acceptance and cooperation.  Sports are a very effective platform through which these principles can be demonstrated. There is no question that sports have played, and will continue to play, a vital role in providing examples of these fundamental building blocks of a civil society.

For example, one of the most significant events in the history of the struggle for civil rights was Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball. During a time when blacks were considered, to put it mildly, second-class citizens by many and, more bluntly, less than human by others, the sight of Robinson playing alongside white teammates, all on equal footing on the field, was both instructional and inspirational.

Sports is an enterprise where race, creed and background have, for the most part, little impact on achievement and opportunity, at least on the fields of play. Coaches are interested not in the color of a wide receiver’s skin but in whether that player is able to contribute to the team’s success on the field. Coaches play the best players regardless of color or creed because they want to win above all else. Their jobs and livelihoods depend on it.

Similarly, for the most part, athletes are unusually tolerant and accepting of other athletes. Like their coaches, athletes want to win and a player’s color or background means little if he or she can help in achieving that result.

The sight of athletes working together toward a common goal, sharing in the sweat, pain and sacrifice, provides a powerful example of the possibilities for tolerance, diversity and integration. Sports offer a vivid display of how people, regardless of background, can work together to accomplish impressive things. Seeing black athletes perform on equal footing with their white teammates sparked a light that suggested the possibility that the same could be done in many other occupations and situations.  A lot of the progress we have made as a society, whether in business or every day life, has to do with examples of racial tolerance and acceptance demonstrated through sports. When the public sees athletes working together successfully, it provides an example for others to emulate.

There are plenty of stories of whites refusing to stay at a hotel that would not accept their black teammates.  Pee Wee Reese went out of his way to put his arm around Robinson in the field, to demonstrate solidarity when Robinson was the target of racial slurs. And, of course, Jesse Owens defeating his white opponents in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, a platform Hitler planned on using to demonstrate his despicable notion of white supremacy, resonated throughout the world. In short, sports have played an important role in the world’s ongoing civil rights journey.

This is one of sports’ most powerful and enduring legacies.

But sport is not the only vehicle to play an important role in this regard. While sports may have a more visible public platform, music has the same potential, power and history in promoting tolerance, diversity and integration.

While Jackie Robinson was breaking the color barrier in baseball, there were many bands of all types, styles and sizes demonstrating the power of inclusion and tolerance. Like the stories of white athletes standing up for their black teammates, there are similar stories of musicians doing the same for their black band mates. Like athletes, musicians want to perform their best and don’t particularly care about the color of the saxophonist or drummer as long as he or she can play.
One only has to take a close look at the iconic Art Kane photograph titled Harlem 1958 (or “A Great Day in Harlem”) to imagine what was transpiring on bandstands in concert halls, clubs and bars during the civil rights struggle. Kane used a wide-angle lens to capture a telling photo of fifty-eight jazz musicians sitting, standing and kneeling on the steps of a Harlem brownstone apartment building. Just about all of the jazz “heavyweights” of the era are pictured enjoying what must have been a very lively and entertaining photo session.

Coleman Hawkins is front and center in the picture. A young Dizzy Gillespie is on the right fringe of the group, laughing. And important jazz musicians of the day such as Jimmy Rushing, Count Basie and Thelonious Monk are pictured as well. While the majority of these jazz greats are black, Gerry Milligan, Max Kaminsky, Gene Krupa, George Wettling  and Bud Freeman, all white, are also pictured. In addition, Maxine Sullivan, Marian McPartland and Mary Lou Williams represent women jazz musicians. Kane’s photo is a wonderful testament to the fact that music, like sports, was way ahead of the curve in terms of providing examples of blacks, whites and women working together in the equal opportunity arena of a bandstand.

Further, the emergence of “black music” in our cultural landscape served as a powerful example of black culture being accepted and valued, at least by the younger generation. Not surprisingly, it often took the older generation longer to catch on to the inevitable reality that integration was on its way. Chuck Berry’s popularity with white audiences and Elvis Presley, a white kid singing “black” are only two examples. 

And the legacy of both sports and music’s role in prodding social change continues to this day in the form of athletes such as Colin Kaepernick and Lebron James and musicians such as John Legend and any number of modern day rap artists.

Clearly, in the area of integration, tolerance and diversity, sports and music have had a powerful impact. Although they are different arenas, their respective potential to provide examples of people of different color, gender and background working together in harmony are, for all practical purposes, identical.

And in today’s increasingly culturally toxic and polarized society, perhaps now more than ever, it is a blessing that their power in this regard is enduring.

Music as the Glue of the Core Curriculum

An ongoing debate within the educational community relates to how to classify physical education classes, athletic programs (in particular, football) and music programs within the academic curriculum. Specifically, the question relates to whether these programs should be considered “extracurricular” or “core” activities. The purpose of this essay is not only to examine that question, but to make the case that music programs are not only “core” in nature, but actually have the potential, if utilized strategically, to be the “glue” that holds the entire core curriculum together.

Clearly, some form of physical activity should be a part of a well-rounded, core educational experience. Plato’s concept of “sound mind, sound body” is, in fact, sound. The question is what is the best way to effectively achieve this goal? Of the resources that a school devotes to physical activity and athletics, what percentage should be devoted to football, in which virtually no girls and a small percentage of male students participate, largely for entertainment purposes, versus a robust physical education program? A strong case can be made that a comprehensive physical fitness and wellness program should be considered and funded as a core activity because it can be accessible to all students and structured to offer activities that emphasize, teach and instill lifelong fitness habits.

Although football may have some positive academic impacts, it is extremely difficult to make the case that it is a core academic activity. This assertion is not widely disputed because football, as currently structured and conducted, is not about providing broad-based participation opportunities to benefit the general fitness of the entire student body. The reality is that Plato’s concept of a well-balanced and conditioned mind and body has been distorted in our current “football as entertainment” model.  A high school football program and a general physical fitness program have little in common. In a nutshell, while a case can be made for general physical fitness and wellness as a core activity, football is clearly extracurricular.

The case for music is different. A reasonable argument can be made that music, because of its’ direct impact on various core academic activities such as math, reading, language and even science, should not only be considered a core academic activity, but an activity that can serve as the “glue” of the core curriculum. In short, music is math. Music is reading. Music is language. And music is logic. As a result, music in some form can be incorporated into virtually any subject matter or academic curriculum to enhance learning and understanding.

While some schools consider and classify music as part of the general, core academic budget, the majority of junior and high schools consider music an extracurricular activity because, from a cultural and public perception standpoint, music is widely considered a “nice”, “add on” offering, but not absolutely necessary from an academic standpoint. If this were not the case, why is it that when budget crises hit, decisions regarding funding cuts usually do not center on core subjects and programs in science, math or English but, rather, on athletics, music and arts programs? The result is that sports and music programs are all too often pitted against each other in the funding debate.

But after a thorough review of the relative educational value and effectiveness of these activities, one has to question why they are both considered to be in the same category of noncore activities.  The difference is so stark that not only should music be considered a “core” subject, but has the potential to serve as the “glue” of the core curriculum.

Clearly, music has far more in common with core academic activities than with extracurricular ones. Music possesses several unique and extremely valuable educational characteristics that are particularly important in today’s schools, which face increasing pressure to provide students with an education equal to the challenges of the twenty-first century. Music positively impacts reading, language, math and logic skills and is universal in application, leading to excellent learning opportunities across disciplines. Football programs, on the other hand, possess very little in the way of these benefits, producing few discernible, direct academic benefits.

That said, music’s status as a core activity is a bit different from that of other core subjects such as math, reading and science. Specifically, music should not be considered a stand-alone core subject such as math or science. It is not another subject matter box to be checked. Music’s value as a fundamental, core educational activity rests in its’ universality–it’s potential and ability to link all of the other core educational activities into a comprehensive educational experience. Music, if utilized strategically, can offer a common thread throughout an entire academic curriculum.

In addition to its’ potential to amplify, crystallize and enhance learning in virtually all other subjects, there are other characteristics of music that lend credence to the claim that it is core in nature. Any core educational activity must be available to everyone. While football generally caters to a small slice of the student population, music programs are accessible to and can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone.

Additionally, we must instill in students the ability to navigate our increasingly multicultural, complex and integrated world. Music, as the universal language, clearly has the capacity to reach across cultural boundaries like no other activity. We have long considered core subject areas to be math, reading, language and science. However,  a case can be made that, moving forward in this wildly diverse world, “cultural understanding” should be added to that list of core subject areas.

Another subject that must be considered a core aspect of an education worthy to meet the demands of the twenty-first century is creativity. The ability to think outside the box to address increasingly complex issues and challenges and to make new and different connections that lead to exciting discoveries and knowledge will be one of, if not the most important characteristic that students must possess to be successful in a globalized world. Music is our most effective educational tool to encourage and develop creativity.

Further, a core educational principle that our teachers and schools should instill in all students is a love of lifelong learning. It is not enough to simply teach facts and figures, but rather teachers must spark in their students a fascination with the world in which they live and encourage an intellectual curiosity about their place in that world that will last a lifetime. An important component of such lifelong learning is to provide access and exposure to activities that can be engaged in, and thus learned from, for a lifetime. Music is such an activity while the ability and opportunity to continue to participate in football after high school is limited to a select few.  
Finally, music should be embraced as a core educational activity because it offers something different from math, science and reading in its approach, methodology and process. As Charles Fowler writes in Strong Arts, Strong Schools, the arts have a distinct advantage over other subjects in that the arts are “refreshingly different in the way that they are taught and learned.” (Fowler, 1996, p. 102.)

After fully assessing the impacts and benefits of these activities, it is clear that because of music’s broad based, universal educational impact and academic value, it should be considered not only a core educational activity, but an activity that can provide a broad framework to bring together all of the core subject matter elements in a cohesive, comprehensive way that reflects the realities of a global, creative, interdisciplinary 21st Century education. That being the case, decisions regarding how to allocate increasingly scarce “extracurricular” educational dollars and resources become quite clear. If music’s academic and educational benefits are significant enough for it to be considered not only core in nature, but the glue that can be applied to enhance the understanding of all core curricular elements, the choice is indisputable.