Taking action from far away

Facebook can be just about the most annoying website/application in existence, or so it seems. Every time I log in I am inundated with a myriad of stories of the time wasted by my friends and acquaintances, which magically turns into time wasted for me as I sit for 20 or 30 minutes reading about all the stupid, pointless quizzes, tests and pokes and other mindless garbage that goes on.

Every single day I consider abandoning facebook, just like I did with Myspace. The über-connectivity of the internet gets to be a bit much sometimes, especially for someone like me that finds great enjoyment during weekends spent alone, completely alone, cut off from the world and locked in my room listening to music, reading a book or watching Alton Brown and learning about the history of pasteurization, replete with an actor playing Louis Pasteur.

Then, once in a very great while the hyper-connectivity of it all actually finds a use, and I realize that there is a point to being able to reach out to people for some cause, other than begging you to join their cause (“We want to be teh larg3st groop on teh fac3b00k!!”).

I was looking through my facebook newsfeed and saw that a friend of mine had “attended” an event “An email to help save Gates-Chili’s music” or something to that effect. Seeing as how I grew up in the Gates, NY school district (Gates and Chili are right next to each other, so they share schools), I clicked on the event and read.

The story was nothing new. School district is facing hard times (and aren’t we all these days) and looking for places to cut some money out of the budget. Of course the first thing they look to cut is music. Without going into a crude value-based judgement on what should stay and what should go in this situation I decided that I would immediately write an email, as the group requested, to the address at the top of the page. My letter, that I wrote without much thought, but simply a passionate plea from one music lover/student/active American citizen (a rare breed, indeed) appears below for you:

My name is Adam Shanley. I grew up in Gates. I attended Kindergarten through 4th grade at Neil Armstrong and I still hold fond memories of that institution as shaping me to the person that I am today.

Currently I am finishing up two Masters degrees in Music at SUNY Fredonia, one in Classical Guitar Performance, and one in Music Theory/Composition. I completed my bachelors degree in Music Composition in 2006.

After being in college, and coming into contact with so many people with an astounding array of different backgrounds I have only become stronger in my opinion that music education from an early age has benefits to all involved. I feel so incredibly strongly about this that I have made it my life goal to insist that music education be held in equally high regard with the  sciences and math. Music education and art appreciation go hand in hand, not only forming a more well-rounded person, but it also helps a student to think abstractly.

Mathematics and music have incredible amounts in common. This is so much the case that several universities offer a “Math in Music” course that studies the ratios that are so important to music, tuning systems, the imperfections that arise with each of these tuning systems and all the details that come with it. If mathematics is important for solidifying a skill for abstract thinking because math occurs in everyday life I would have to argue that the same is true for music. Music is not simply “all around us”, but the fact that math exists naturally in the world and humans have been striving to discover all of its intricacies, and music and math share so much in common, wouldn’t it be completely unwise to cutoff this avenue of exploration?

Denying a young adult access to proper music education, especially music theory, would be the equivalent of not teaching algebra in math, or not teaching the periodic table of elements in science. There are so many more reasons to continue teaching music than there are to cease and desist.

Music Technology would be just as big a mistake to get rid of altogether. Allowing students to have access to the programs and tools that are used today in the creation of music, after they have studied the science behind how music is structurally put together (through music theory, history and a general music education) it is of the utmost importance that students are able to create something from that knowledge that they have learned.

Music education should never be thought of as something like a “niche market” that is only valuable to a student that is going to grow up to be a musician. Music education will ultimately strengthen our culture, which is already failing drastically in the world as far as cultural significance goes. Music education would benefit anyone not just as a musician, but as one who appreciates music. A person that learns to appreciate music, and the arts in general will most certainly foster a love for mathematics, the English language, the sciences, art and just being a creative person. Wouldn’t it be absolutely wonderful to have an entire generation of people that are curious about the world?

Imagine a country where people didn’t simply sit down on the couch every day and watch 6 hours of television a night but instead became interested in music or math or science or anything and went out to research anything that they were curious about. Imagine a world where people were driven to life long education because of an instilled interest in the arts and music. Imagine a world where everyone got involved and stood up to make a difference and cared about something deeply and made their voices heard.

It is a fact that music education has all of these benefits and more. Cutting music theory and music technology classes, or any music classes for that matter would ultimately hurt the society that your school should be striving to help flourish.

Adam Shanley

I was informed the next day that this very email, which was not alone – in fact there are emails written by current Eastman School of music faculty and other concerned Gates-Chili alumnus- will be read at a school board meeting in which the fate of the music program will be discussed.

Through the din of useless chatter in the ultra-connected world there is hope that a difference could possibly be made.

4 thoughts on “Taking action from far away”

  1. I agree…it does create a different sort of world where people have music and art as well early on. I see a whole range of school situations across Chicago and even some “Magnet” schools don’t have music or art. Instead, it’s literally Math and Reading 2 hours each then Science and lunch. That’s the day! There’s no chance for kids to learn to express themselves or develop a self concept that has anything to do with an art form. It’s just memorize and regurgitate…so sad! I think the more you allow your brain to develop, especially early on, the more you’re able to reason politically and understand your place in the world around you. I just don’t see too much of that going on.