Everyone likes music. Whether it’s country, jazz, opera or good old rock ‘n roll, music moves you.
I’m willing to bet there is a book that, at some point, touched your life too. I’ll go one further: I am positive there is a film that you can quote, or performance you saw on stage, one that made feel some kind of an emotion that has created a memory for you. Art matters.
So can someone please explain to me why we still have to prove that art is necessary in our school system? When will we, the adults in charge, recognize that art, in all its various forms, is often what saved many of us in our awkward youth? Enrolment numbers should never be a reason we let go of, or fail to support programs.
This week I learned that my son’s school is in jeopardy of losing some key elements of the music curriculum because the numbers don’t add up. As a proud former band geek, this upsets me because – news flash people – not every kid likes gym class. Not every kid excels at math, or science. Not every kid fits in socially.
We talk about bullying and acceptance in the same breath, but create situations where students are centred out for their lack of abilities, instead of creating situations for individuals to shine. Isn’t the point of education to open minds, not stuff them into pre-determined boxes?
The arts saved me in school. I struggled academically in the days before individual education plans and the accommodations they offer. But I had an English teacher who knew I loved to write. She put the words of my two Margarets (Laurence and Atwood) in my hands and pushed me into the path of Robertson Davies.
I found an outlet that became the trajectory of my career.
My drama teacher encouraged me to find my voice. It was the one classroom where everyone fits in, because even the cool kids get knocked down a peg when the spotlight is on them. Drama class levels the playing field. It also builds character, if you’ll pardon the pun. It’s not for everyone, but for those who need it, it’s everything. It’s had a huge impact on my professional life, especially as a broadcaster.
Last week, I had the honour of watching Centre Wellington District High School perform Footloose, in which my daughter, who deals with a learning disability every single day, took the stage alongside students of all ages and abilities. My girl can sing, but she learned that long before high school. All the music was performed by the school band and most of those students learned to play music instruments in elementary school. They found their tribe before Grade 9. It made the transition to high school easier. That’s important.
I speak from the heart when I say that high school musical saved my daughter’s academic year. It gave her a safe place to go when she needed it, and inspired her to find senior students as mentors. This is because of teachers who believe labels don’t dictate talent. It took hard work, long hours, but it created a sense of belonging. Inclusion matters. That’s art.
We lost another musical icon last week. Nobody will remember if Prince could do algebra, but my generation will always remember his art.
Writing has been my passion since I learned how to hold a pencil (which I still cannot do properly). Despite my father’s insistence that I would starve to death in this career, I remain well fed and eager to write more. They say you should do what you love: I love to write.