“Music is important for the development of cultural understanding; it nurtures growth – spiritual, physical and intellectual growth – all of which lead to the greater enrichment of humanity.”
Vivianne Asturizaga, Bolivia, Flutist
People know the reasons that music has value – it’s said again and again; good for the brain, aids in math, soothes the soul. Teachers and parents and scientists and artists all insist that music has value – but does it – really?
We’ve just returned from the National Flute Association Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, and in truth it was a tooter’s dream. There wasn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind that music had value. There were fabulous concerts every hour of the day, newly minted sonatas and concertos along with the composers who created them, recordings from the sublime to the more sublime, flutes for all level of flutist fashioned from metals and woods both common and uncommon. If you happened to need a new case for your flute or a bag for your case or a swab to de-goop your flute or a metronome to hone your timing or a flute-shaped charm for wrist or neck or whatever accessory the mind of man could conceive for flute they were decorously draped on tables and racks on hooks and hangers and cast across the convention hall like holiday goods in December! It was a veritable festival of flute. Actually it was a festival of flute – and we all had a fabulous time! Tooting and hooting and rebooting!
I am not a flutist (or a flautist) and in truth I went to the convention kicking and screaming – so loud and angrily that my wife the flutist (or flautist), was, for the first time in our marriage, considering divorce! Barbara is quite committed to making music and leading children to the love of music. She’s a true visionary. From the time we met and started creating stories and songs for children, Barbara has maintained the belief that the situation in the schools and in our culture at large, as it pertains to classical music in particular, is dire – and that nothing short of a full throttle movement is needed to drive home the point that indeed music is all the things those teachers and parents and scientists and artists say it is. Frankly all I’ve ever wanted to do is write funny songs and make kids laugh – but after four days on the floor of the NFA convention in Charlotte I’m a believer too.
I’ve been to many a music trade show and believe me when I say – I hate them! Why? Because for the most part the people who come to them want either to sell or stay far away from sellers – and it’s often just one awful experience after the other. Of course we came to this convention with a brilliant marketing strategy – yup we have something to sell too. A new and wonderful beginner flute that Barbara and our flute partner Jason Blank designed – along with Green Golly ( a different girl in a different tower) and her stories, and award winning CD’s, and sheet music and an animated TV show in development – but also with this brilliant strategy that Mister Blank came up with. The strategy was just this – lure people into our booth with a promise of free Green Golly ice-cream and once having secured their time ask them to write in a few words or many “why music is important – for children, for life and for our culture?” I don’t have to tell you how transformative this question is – I’ll show you. Below are just a few of the things people had to say …
“Music gives us the opportunity to express parts of ourselves that can’t be expressed with words. Music makes a society more civil.”
Nan Raphael, Gemeinhardt Piccolo Specialist: Washington, DC
I watched as people turned from cynics to celebrators. I watched hard faces soften and dull eyes sparkle as men and women, young and old engaged with this question …
“Music gave me my voice when I couldn’t find it – something every person deserves.”
Jennifer Shanahan, Flutist, Forest Park, IL
Not that everyone was interested. Some did that usual trade show boogie of uncomfortably smiling and looking elsewhere as they walked on. Some stopped and scribbled unintelligibly just to get their free ice-cream. Some were too embarrassed to take the time to say something for fear of disapproval or bad grades.
“!$%# !! # %^ % $%^!!”
An annoyed and/or embarrassed NFA participant
This is a critical time for Americans in so many ways but I want you to consider what happens to a culture when a generation is trained only in a very narrow spectrum of subjects.
“Music is a function of all human brains – some more than others. To neglect this area of education is to deny many children the “brain fuel” they need in order to be successful in other areas … Picasso would not have been successful in the current educational environment.”
Karen Franks: Band Teacher, Salisbury, NC
When we eliminate the much-needed beauty that the arts experience brings to developing minds, not to mention music’s ability (some studies are now saying) to improve the functioning of a child’s brain we short change a child’s potential in so many ways.
“Learning to play a musical instrument teaches skills that can be applied to anything difficult in life – like math class!”
Eden Dunning, Flutist, Cincinnati, OH
There’s nothing like a good question to get a conversation started – and as Barbara said in our last blog entry – it is our hope, our desire, our goal – to get you into this conversation so that the future of classical music and of our culture and education will be a bright one. We can write and sing and play the songs but you have to buy them – and you have to buy this argument that music has value – and not only for its beauty and the joy it creates – but for the lasting impact it has on children, life and culture. Please join in the conversation. We’ll meet you at www.greengolly.com and see you at the concert hall.
“Music is a great blessing to our family. It brings us closer together. I love seeing my children realize that they can make music – and do it well.”
Preston Holley, Musician and father of 5, Limestone, TN