In my more than 30 years working in music education I’ve observed a great deal of change. However, one constant is the overwhelming impact that music teachers have on the overall success of their students.
The positive influence a good teacher can have on students’ daily lives is undeniable. Regardless of socioeconomic status or school district, it is clear that students who participate in high-quality music programs score higher on reading and spelling tests.1 We also know that students who study music tend to have larger vocabularies and more advanced reading skills than their peers who do not participate in music lessons.2 There are a whole host of benefits to a quality music education, including building a sense of identity, preserving or restoring social capital, and strengthening social networks in communities.3 In a perfect world, our nation’s public school music teachers would be uniformly well-funded, but unfortunately that is not the case.
Research shows that music teachers are spending roughly $1000 annually directly out of their own pockets to fund their classrooms and improve the experience of their students. One important resource that can ease their burden is the online teacher-led crowdfunding site DonorsChoose.org, which has been accessed by one in four teachers in the United States. Yamaha has set up a matching offer to help music teachers buy the supplies they need to provide quality music education to all students, regardless of zip code or ability to pay.
Not long ago, members of the Yamaha Band & Orchestral team visited a classroom in McKees Rocks, PA, just outside Pittsburgh. There, they met Mrs. Suellen Engelhard, who teaches general music and band classes to high-energy middle school students at Sto-Rox Junior Senior High School. More than three quarters of her students come from low-income households. They regularly deal with violence and rough situations outside the classroom, so music class is a place they come to connect with their passions and build important friendships.
The school’s band room was equipped with a variety of inherited instruments that were very old and in disrepair — some to the point of being unusable. Mrs. Engelhard was buying the reeds, drumheads and other accessories herself, but with limited funding from her school district, it was becoming a challenge to keep up. Through our partnership with DonorsChoose.org, Yamaha found a way to fund some of the school’s basic needs and provide new and improved ligatures, mallets and reeds, all of which would make those instruments playable again.
Yamaha is honored to be able to support music teachers whose efforts make a huge difference in the lives of our nation’s young people. You can make a difference in your own community and change the lives of young people through music. Take a look at the projects on DonorsChoose.org to see how a small contribution can make a world of difference, right in your own back yard.
Watch Mrs. Engelhard’s story:
1 Hille, Katrin, et al. “Associations between music education, intelligence, and spelling ability in elementary school.” Adv Cogn Psychol 7 (2011): 1–6. Web.
2 “Statistical benefits of music in education.” Arete Music Academy.
3 Arts in Aging report from the National Endowment for the Arts. http://www.cms.msu.edu/docs/BenefitsMusic-Adult.pdf.