The Importance of Music Education

How music shapes the brain.

How music shapes the brain.

At the announcement that four beloved music teachers would be cut, there was a palpable wail.

  • Valerie Acee from CCE,
  • Lou Shafer from CHS
  • Jennifer Mernitz CHS Instrumental, CHS vocal and SH
  • Mike Vertoske CMS 6th grade band.

Each of these professionals possesses a unique talent that can’t be backfilled by just another body.  We “stole” these teachers from other districts by the way, because of their awe of the Clarence program. Little known fact, when a teacher changes district, they start at the beginning of the teacher pay scale for that district. So in essence they took a cut in pay to come here. And here is the thanks. (Williamsville, who has picked up staff from prior years cuts, no doubt is salivating to grab one of these tremendous talents.) But accountants don’t look at who or what is cut — they just want to get to a number. When a budget is so lean, the byproduct of years of frugality, inculcated by a tax-resistant board and political body, there was no more fat to be trimmed. Now it is amputation: vital limbs being chopped off. The accountants know the cost of the aforementioned people – but do they know the value?

Music is a fundamental for virtually every other discipline offered. The brain responds to the patterns of music, growing and lighting up like a scoreboard. The patterns found in music represent the patterns found in nature, science and math. Legend has it that the Greek Philosopher Pythagoras discovered the correlation between numbers and sound as he wandered past a black smith’s shop. Hammers of different sizes created different sounds – and together they harmonized. When you play strings — if you pluck a string it sounds a note. By dividing in half – it sounds an octave. By dividing strings at exact intervals — you can predict the sounds. It’s easy to leap that if Pythagoras played the lyre, Einstein played violin, Steve Jobs played guitar that maybe there is some correlation. But correlation is not causation. So we turned to actual science and looked at the evidence.

Indeed so many studies have been conducted on music and its short and long-term effects on brain development from neuro-muscular abilities. to cogniton and attention, in language learning, math achievement, computer science, spatial aptitude, auditory processing. executive function and literacy, memory, and so many more benefits that it seems like a criminal act.

Year after year, Clarence Central School District is recognized for being a one of the nation’s top music education schools. A distinction that drew the likes of Shafer, Mernitz and Vertoske to this school. The sophistication is what drew James Ieda, violinist and Clarence music instructor to the district. “When I compare the enrichment and education my students get here vs. where I went to school, it’s like comparing AA minors to the Major League ALL star league. The Wind Ensemble is easily in the top 5 in the country. No exaggeration needed, they play at Mid West every time their eligible, and when they’re not, they get invited to do clinics and perform anyway.”

The loss of Vertoske will be felt long beyond the classroom. A gifted composer, Vertoske has written numerous works for all the Clarence bands, some of which have been performed at Mid West.

Ieda noted that students get t to play Symphonies like Beethoven 5. “I didn’t get to play it until I was 30, not because of ability, but because most conductors rarely program it,” he explained. To have high school kids sit down and play major Symphonies of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Dvorak is truly awesome. There are very, very few orchestras that would tackle the literature that Doug Shaw does.”

If it is chilling to have children play Beethoven’s 5th at such a young age,  it is even more chilling is that those in the younger grades may never have the chance.

Music education is one of the integral programs that make Clarence Schools great. Now how do we convince the accountants?

For an absolute treat:

Kleinhans Tuesday, June 4th
48th Annual Clarence High School Concert Band, Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble Time: 7:00pm


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