Art and About
Engaging with the creative force in everyday life

August 24th, 2009

Art: People Who Get What It’s All About

Posted by christina in Web Columns

Here are a couple of people who get it, and when I read their prose, I shouted, “Hear, hear!”

Why California must fund music education

Ted Barone

Friday, July 31, 2009

The budget straits the state of California is facing are forcing our leaders to make a series of pernicious choices with legacy implications. One such choice is whether to fund music programming or refocus our funding priorities to the “core academics” (which happen to be those subjects tested in the statewide testing system).

I propose that we really don’t have a choice. We must fund music.

From the rhythm of our breathing as infants and the comforting lullabies that helped us sleep, to the cacophony of song and sound that envelops our modern everyday lives, music is an essential factor in what defines us as human. Music is a messenger that carries the history and collective experience of a people across time and space. Music also helps develop our brains in a way that will increase our ability to address and solve the extraordinary challenges that lie ahead of us as a people. The musical key is the proverbial key. In other words, the structure and organization of music is exactly what makes it so important for brain development. From the notes, chords are built. Chords determine keys, within which a skillful musician creates an experience, a message, a movement. Mix in rhythm and a new order of time emerges.

Music is all about creating neural networks and expanding the speed and capacity of the pathways that determine skill and memory. A key finding from brain research is that once a neural pathway is established, and the more that pathway is used, especially with passion and emotion, the greater the “bandwidth” and strength of the connection. Memory is improved, processing speed is increased, and better, more sophisticated decisions are a result.

Music is all about the structural connections that are used to support memory. It’s much easier to remember something that follows a familiar structure or pattern than something random and unfamiliar. These familiar structures serve as the foundation for building greater knowledge and even stronger and more extensive neural networks that support learning of all kinds.

In a world of extraordinary complexity, a premium is placed on one’s ability to quickly process massive amounts of wildly varying types of information. Musical instruction helps young people develop the brain capacity to process a lot of information and to organize and present it.

Playing music cultivates a mind that is prepared to process and make sense of the rush of information and problems that have come to characterize the 21st century. Music is a core subject. We can’t cut funding for music any more than we can cut funding for math.

Ted Barone is the principal of Albany High School.

This article appeared on page A – 15 of the San Francisco Chronicle
© 2009 Hearst Communications Inc.

A New Day of Joy!

Dear Members,

There are over 70 pieces in the Choristers Guild catalogue that contain the word “joy” in the title. Choristers Guild composer, Larry Schultz’s A New Day of Joy is among the newest, published as part of the Spring 2009 packet. Terry York’s text for this anthem posits, “This third day of sadness is a new day of joy!” I love that reassurance.

It is easy to name all of the things that seem to be going wrong around us. We seem to be living at a time when there is clear, palpable and global recognition that our planet is crossing a tipping point. No one can make the claim that they are not affected by or connected to social, ecnomic or ecological changes. Now more than ever, we may wonder, where is the joy?

As musicians, we are poised to be catalysts of change. Music, song, and singing connect us to a life-blood creativity that we must not forget. Most of us began this work because of the pleasure we felt making music. Have you stopped recently to consider the physical sensation of singing? It is a pleasurable experience! It is natural and in its purest form, it is easy!

We at Choristers Guild are here to inspire, nurture and support you as leaders in your diverse settings. Spend some time with our music and resources, take advantage of one of the director’s workshops this summer, and then dare to share the joy you experience.


David Hein, Choristers Guild, National Board President

Printed in The Chorister: Volume 61, Number 1, page 3