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- Address from Richard W. Riley
About Music Education
- Following are excerpts from an address by former U.S.
- of Education Richard W. Riley to the National Assembly of
- MENC on Tuesday, July 13, 1999:
- Several weeks ago, I went to England, Scotland, and Ireland
- visit schools and share ideas with educators. While I was
- London, I went to see a play, "The Prisoner of Second
- starring Richard Dreyfuss. Afterward, I spoke with him
- and he said that of all his movies, he was most proud of
"Mr. Holland's Opus."
- As a child, I took piano lessons for three or four years. I
- destined to become a great musician. But I know that
- music, children learn to reach for their very best. You have
- witnessed the intensity with which children prepare for a
- They practice and practice until they can play the piece
- errors. Imagine if, when they are a few years older, they
- a geometry test with the same intensity. Then imagine if
- continue to strive for excellence as college students, as
- and as parents.
- As music teachers, you lead children to do their best, and you
- them that through practice and persistence they can
- something close to perfection. You also teach them to
- the joy of music.
- No one ever derived more joy from music than the great
- Pablo Casals. At the age of 93, after his long, wonderful
- Casals decided it was time to write his autobiography, which
- called "Joys and Sorrows." You have to admire a man who
- until he is 93 years old before he begins his autobiography.
- was either very confident of his longevity... or an
- For eighty years, he began each day by sitting down at the
- and playing two of Bach's preludes and fugues. In his
- autobiography, Casals explain this morning ritual:
- "It is a sort of benediction of the house. But that is not its
- meaning for me... It fills me with awareness of the wonder of
- with a feeling of the incredible marvel of being a human
- The music is never the same for me -- never. Each day it
- something new, fantastic, and unbelievable."
- None of us claim to have Casals' understanding and talent
- music. But all of us share part of his experience -- the
- feeling when music lifts our spirits, transports us, and helps
- sense the beauty of the world.
- As music teachers, you help your students experience that
- miraculous feeling. And your best students, when they
- accomplished musicians, can inspire that feeling in others.
- giving all your students-- whether they are musicians or not
- tremendous gift.
- The American composer Charles Ives' first teacher was his
- As you know, Ives' compositions ignored tradition, jarred
- and could not be played by the best musicians of his time. So,
- won't find it surprising that his father employed some
- teaching methods.
- For example, while Charles sang "Swanee River," his father
- accompany him on the piano. Now, that's normal enough. But
- trick is, his father would ask Charles to sing in the key of
- but he would accompany him in C major.
- Why would he do such a thing? No, the discord was not a form
- punishment. As Charles recalls it, his father created this
- musical exercise so the Charles would "stretch" his ears,
- customs and habits behind, and take nothing for granted.
- A more recent American musician, Leonard Bernstein, could
- identify with both Casals and Ives. Like Casals, he loved the
- beauty of music. Like Ives, he promoted avant-garde
- And Bernstein was a teacher. In his "Omnibus" television
- programs, he led millions of viewers -- children and adults --
- better understanding of music.
- He wrote a book, "The Joy of Music," that was based on
- television programs. In a chapter called "What Makes
- Grand," he describes the power of opera. According to
- when we watch the greatest operas, we enter a different world,
- afterwards, "we are enriched and ennobled."
- So, what does all this mean? Casals says music fills him with
- wonder of life and the "incredible marvel" of being a human.
- says it expands his mind and challenges him to be a true
- individual. Bernstein says it is enriching and ennobling.
- To me, that sounds like a good case for making music and the
- an integral part of every child's education. Studying music
- arts elevates children's education, expands students'
- teaches them to appreciate the wonder of life.
- Communities all across America are coming to realize the
- necessity of including music and arts education as core
- the curriculum. In doing so, they are improving their schools
- giving more children the opportunity to succeed.
- In Las Cruces, New Mexico, every school board meeting begins
- student performance. What a great way to remind school
- music and art should be at the heart of the curriculum.
- In Miami's elementary schools, every child learns art and
- receiving 60 minutes of art instruction and 90 minutes of
- instruction every week. When schools emphasize music and the
- teachers and students become more enthusiastic and the entire
- day is infused with energy.
- In the early 1980s, the Charlottesville, Virginia, orchestra
- had eight members. That's not an orchestra -- that's two
- quartets bumping into each other. Thanks to enthusiastic
- and support form parents and community members, the
- now has nearly 100 members. And they have won state
- earned national honors, and performed at the White House.
- And in a suburb of Washington, D.C., a young girl named Riley
- whose grandfather is very proud of her and likes to mention
- speeches from time to time -- recently participated in an
- elementary school band concert. The turnout and enthusiasm
- the concert was incredible. The parking lot was full. Parents
- supportive. They praised the band teacher. And, of course,
- music was great.
- All of these are good reasons for supporting music
- throughout the country. And I'm sure that you are all aware of
- research that shows a connection between studying music
- improving skills that are useful in other academic areas.
- When the Jet Propulsion Laboratory put together a team of
- engineers and scientists to work on the Mars rover project
- weren't looking to form a band. However, most team
- were artists. There were metal sculptors, photographers,
- To celebrate a successful launching in June 1999, a group
- engineers and scientists at Jet Propulsion Lab did in fact
- band, calling themselves "The Big Band Theory."
- If we can develop strong music education programs in schools
- over the country, good things will happen. Our schools will
- stronger. Our children will be smarter. Our nation will be
- And our lives will be filled with music.
- What message does it send our students if a modern prison is
- right down the road, but their band room has a leaky roof?
- need your help so that Congress will understand the need
- modern schools across America.
- I'd like to close with a few more words from Pablo Casals,
- wrote about the important role that teachers played in his
- "To be a teacher is to have a great responsibility....
- young people are our greatest treasure; when we think of them,
- think of the future of the world. Then consider the
- nurturing their minds, of helping form their outlook on the
- of training and preparing them for the work that they will do.
- think of no profession more important than that of
- I am grateful to each of you for your work in the classroom.
- you teach children to love and appreciate music, you are
- them lift themselves up to new places of the mind and the
- Thank you.
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