Why You SHOULDN’T Give It Up
Some times people give up music for the wrong reasons. If you don’t enjoy it or have a true and more intense passion in something else, such as art, theatre, etc…then you should absolutely make that decision and pursue your other interests and leave music behind. But whatever you pursue, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons.
Too often, kids who love music and are good at it are steered away from it for the wrong reasons. They worry about their grades, time management, and skill level. They worry about fitting it into their schedules and still being able to pursue other areas of interest while fulfilling graduation requirements. They want to look competitive for college. They want to have their friends in their classes.
The fact is that music will actually help you manage your time. You will be surrounded by other kids who perform academically above the school average. You will find that this is one of the most accepting groups of great kids in the whole school and you will meet old friends and make new ones. You will find that music DOES help you have a competitive transcript for college, and we will prove it to you. Graduates of our program have gone on to many other extremely reputable colleges. In some cases, it made all the difference in our students being accepted to these schools (and they weren’t music majors). You will find that you CAN fit it in to your schedule with planning and still be able to pursue outside interests, and we are here to help you do it! I have become very adept at helping students navigate their schedules effectively to be able to take music all 4 years and still double up on math, science, and other electives.
Here are some common concerns and misconceptions from incoming freshmen based on 5 years of surveys from students that did NOT continue.
“Will I be able to fit it in my schedule?”
That’s not true. Students here can take choir for all 4 years if they want to and still easily meet all graduation requirements. It is possible to take a performance class for all 4 years and still have up to 3.5 credits available for open electives (meaning take anything you want).
“But I only get one elective as a Freshman at SDHS. When will I get to explore other options?”
That’s true. This is the first time in your life that you’ve been able to decide for yourself what class do you WANT to take. Many kids leave music because they want to try something new, but then never come back. But ask yourself: what’s better for ME? Do I enjoy singing? Did I sing reasonably well in middle school? What would look better on my college application…that I took all random electives…or that I took music (or art, insert other passion here, etc.) from 6th to 12th grade? Sticking with it shows commitment to something for the long haul, and colleges know that musicians are a special breed of people when it comes to creative thinking, time management, academic success, and interpersonal skills (supporting info below).
Trying new things is extremely important…but you don’t have to start doing that as a freshman. The only reason freshman year is so restricted is because SDHS wants you to get your graduation requirements out of the way early so you’re not freaking out about meeting them as an upperclassman. In your sophomore year, you get an additional elective, and an additional 2 electives your Junior and senior year. Plus there are summer school courses that can help you meet your requirements. It doesn’t have to be done as a freshman.
“But I will be involved in sports. Will I have time?”
Yes, you will. Most of the students in band and choir play sports, and most of the ones that do play a sport do so for all three seasons. We have an absolutely outstanding athletic program at San Dimas High School. Part of what makes it outstanding is its respect and understanding of student commitments to other school activities, such as music. Coaches and music teachers work together and are flexible with one another to allow students the time they need to do both without being punished. The music commitments outside of school are very infrequent. No coach has ever given any student a problem with attending a rehearsal or concert.
“Since I am not planning to become a professional musician, is there really a point to continuing with it?”
With that rationale, you should also consider not taking most of your classes. If you were planning to become a scientist, why are you taking English and Social Studies classes? The purpose of education is to teach your brain to think in many different ways, not to train you for a career. That’s something teachers and politicians have been disagreeing on lately. Teachers are more of the mindset that if you are a self-directed, self reflecting learner, you will be able to master any career because of your ability to think critically. Some of the world’s most brilliant people were/are musicians: Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein (who also said he broke through with his general relativity theory while playing the violin), Bill Clinton, MLB player Bernie Williams, NFL quarterback Joey Harrington, Richard Nixon, Condoleeza Rice, and many more people.
Music is just another intellectually stimulating activity that works your mind differently and more uniquely than any other subject (some examples at the bottom of the page). Don’t fall into the trap of looking at everything you do as training for a career or building your resumé. You will have plenty of time to work the rest of your life, and taking music has never derailed anyone from their dreams. In fact, it only helps.
“I want to go to a competitive college in a certain field, so won’t taking music courses be a waste?”
Music courses are a way to distinguish yourself from others in the school. About 10% of students at SDHS participate in the music program. By contrast, arund 60-70% play a sport in any given year. Both are valuable experiences, but it’s nice to have something special that sets you apart.
There are also other misconceptions about what looks good on your transcript. You do not need to take specific courses to track you for a career. MIT is not necessarily going to take the kid that took every science course at SDHS over the kid that took a few science courses and stuck with their music. In fact, most top schools also have choirs and bands, and music can be your ticket into a school. To continue with the MIT example, they have one of the best orchestra programs around!
A private French Horn teacher recently told me a story about one of his students. She had applied to Stanford University, and as part of her application sent in a musical supplement and called the band director. The band director called her up and was impressed with her recording, and asked her to play for him when she next visited the school. She did, and he was impressed with her, and told her to keep him in the loop about the admissions process. She was not admitted, so she called the band director to thank him for his time. He called her back two days later with not only the news that he got her admitted, but a $10,000 scholarship.
The idea behind your first two years of high school is to get as many graduation requirements out of the way as possible so that you can use your junior and senior year to explore possible career paths and focus on the college application process. If you enjoy music but want to do other things: Be patient…you’ll get your chance to try them out as early as sophomore year.
This is one of the few times in your life that you get to do something you enjoy. If you made it this far, it is probably because someone directed you to this page because they see that you have something special with music and they believe that you love it and/or have a great ability with it. Never give up doing something you love. This applies to your other interests. Maybe music isn’t as much your thing as art. So dive into art classes and get as much out of them as you can. You will never again in your life have the time or opportunity to pursue your personal passions like you do now. Don’t short change yourself what you love. Maybe it’s another subject, and that’s OK!!! But do what you love and you will never go wrong.
“But what if I don’t have enough time?”
Nothing at the high school meets outside of school except for concerts or voluntary musical activities. It is all done right in school, and the class meets every day, so you get a lot of practice in school. If you performed well at the middle school, there is no reason to think that you won’t perform well at the high school. From a time management perspective, all of our students live rich, full lives and manage to pull it off. If it’s something you want to do, you’ll be able to do it!
All the best,
Top 10 Reasons to Continue Music at SDHS
1. Because We Are Awesome
2. Looks good on your college applications.
800 students at SDHS participate in a sport and it an awesome part of the culture at SDHS. However, only about 170 students participate in music. It’s a great way to distinguish yourself from your peers and have something that the majority of students do not.
3. We have a great time. Just ask kids that are in the program.
4. De-Stressor built into the school day
Instead of taking an elective that might be more academic in nature that requires a lot more stress, you can decompress and play music. Over 90% of our music students say that they look forward to coming to music classes because they can forget about everything else for a little while and work on something that’s fun to do and relaxing.
5. Increases your SAT scores.
Music has been proven to have a direct correlation to success on standardized test scores, including the SATs. There are many studies listed below.
Adjusting to high school is something a lot of 8th graders worry about. This would be a great way to ease the transition and give you some stability with something you’re already familiar with, and with people you know.
7. It’s Rewarding!
In addition to all of that, you can’t help but feel proud of yourself after participating in one of our performance events.
8. Music Makes you Smarter
Well into your early adulthood, your brain continues to develop. Your IQ is capable of being increased until somewhere between 18-22. Playing music fires more neurons in the brain than just about any other intellectual activity. Specific research cited below.
9. All of Your Friends are doing it.
Well, maybe not all! But a lot of them will. It’s a great way to make new friends from the other middle school, see your old friends in the same place, and make some new friends with kids that are in older grades. It’s quite a unique and bonding experience, and we hope you will want to become a part of it!
10. All of the research below that says it’s good for your brain!
Higher Test Scores
Music students out-perform non-music on achievement tests in reading and math. Skills such as reading, anticipating, memory, listening, forecasting, recall, and concentration are developed in musical performance, and these skills are valuable to students in math, reading, and science.
– B. Friedman, “An Evaluation of the Achievement in Reading and Arithmetic of Pupils in Elementary
School Instrumental Music Classes,” Dissertation Abstracts International.
A ten-year study indicates that students who study music achieve higher test scores, regardless of socioeconomic background.
– Dr. James Catterall, UCLA.
Strengthening the other Academic Disciplines
Music is all the subjects wrapped up into one.
Reading is interpreting symbols to sound. So is reading music. Good readers have a good flow with appropriate pauses and inflections when they read aloud. In music, we call this rhythm, phrasing, articulation, and dynamics.
Mathematics is defined as “the systematic treatment of magnitude, relationships between figures and forms, and relations between quantities expressed symbolically.” In music, the figures are the notes. The forms are the structure of an entire piece. The relations between quantities expressed symbolically are measures, with each note contained therein being a specific unit of defined time in relation to a constant pulse.
No wonder students of music (particularly string orchestra) perform 22-25% higher than the national average on SATs.
Music is science, particularly physics. The system of tuning and our 12 tone system is based around the Fibonacci Sequence. The frequency of pitch is very specific. Without dividing the string into the right proportion with our fingers when playing, melody as we know it would not exist. It would sound like dying cats. Harmony? That glorious resonance that occurs only when we are perfectly in tune playing different notes? Simple physics. The major chord…the fundamental element of our harmonic system…is built on three notes whose amplitudes are of the ratio 6:5:4. Elegance in simplicity creating beauty. That’s how Einstein stumbled on his laws of relativity.
Music is physical education and motoric. The bow hand, the left hand, using both hands if you’re a wind player, tapping the foot, the reading, the physical mechanics of synching all of those things up…
…the counting of the rhythm, the physics of the intonation, the lyricism of phrasing, articulation, and dynamics…you’re literally learning all the subjects simultaneously. The ultimate brain food. In fact…
No Other Subject is as good for your brain.
Researchers find Active Music Making Expands the Brain
In the April 23, 1998 issue of Nature, Researchers at the University of Munster in Germany reported their discovery music lessons in childhood actually enlarge the brain. An area used to analyze the pitch of a musical note is enlarged 25% in musicians, compared to people who have never played an instrument. The findings suggest the area is enlarged through practice and experience. The earlier the musicians were when they started musical training, the bigger this area of the brain appears to be.
Research made between music and intelligence concluded that music training is far greater than computer instruction in improving children’s abstract reasoning skills.(Source: Shaw, Rauscher, Levine, Wright, Dennis and Newcomb, “Music training causes long-term enhancement of preschool children’s spatial-temporal reasoning,” Neurological Research, vol. 19, February 1997 )
The University of Montreal researched brain imaging techniques to study brain activity during musical tasks. Researchers concluded that sight-reading musical scores and playing music “activate regions in all four of the cortex’s lobes” and “parts of the cerebellum are also activated during those tasks.” (Source: J. Sergent, E. Zuck, S. Tenial, and B. MacDonnall (1992). Distributed neural network underlying musical sight reading and keybpard performance. Science, 257, 106-109. )
Researchers in Leipzig discovered through the use of brain scans that musicians had larger planum temporale, the region of the brain associated with reading skills. Also, musicians had a thicker corpus callosum, the nerve fibers that connect the two halves of the brain. (Source: G. Schlaug, L. Jancke, Y. Huang, and H. Steinmetz (1994). “In vivo morphometry of interhemispheric asymmetry and connectivity in musicians.” In I. Deliege (Ed.), Proceedings of the 3rd international conference for music perception and cognition (pp. 417-418), Liege, Belgium. )
Students who can perform complex rhythms can also make faster and more precise corrections in many academic and physical situations, according to the Center for Timing, Coordination, and Motor Skills
– Rhythm seen as key to music’s evolutionary role in human intellectual development, Center for Timing, Coordination, and Motor Skills, 2000.
A 1997 study of elementary students in an arts-based program concluded that students’ math test scores rose as their time in arts education classes increased.
– “Arts Exposure and Class Performance,” Phi Delta Kappan, October, 1998.
First-grade students who had daily music instruction scored higher on creativity tests than a control group without music instruction.
– K.L. Wolff, The Effects of General Music Education on the Academeic Achievement, Perceptual-Motor Development, Creative Thinking, and School Attendance of First-Grade Children, 1992.
In a Scottish study, one group of elementary students received musical training, while another other group received an equal amount of discussion skills training. After six (6) months, the students in the music group achieved a significant increase in reading test scores, while the reading test scores of the discussion skills group did not change.
– Sheila Douglas and Peter Willatts, Journal of Research in Reading, 1994.
According to a 1991 study, students in schools with arts-focused curriculums reported significantly more positive perceptions about their academic abilities than students in a comparison group.
– Pamela Aschbacher and Joan Herman, The Humanitas Program Evaluation, 1991.
In a 1999 Columbia University study, students in the arts are found to be more cooperative with teachers and peers, more self-confident, and better able to express their ideas. These benefits exist across socioeconomic levels.
– The Arts Education Partnership, 1999.
In a 2000 survey, 73 percent of respondents agree that teens who play an instrument are less likely to have discipline problems.
– Americans Love Making Music – And Value Music Education More Highly Than Ever, American Music Conference, 2000.
Music will help you get into college and give you an edge in competition for scholarships.
College admissions officers continue to cite participation in music as an important factor in making admissions decisions. They claim that music participation demonstrates time management, creativity, expression, and open-mindedness.
– Carl Hartman, “Arts May Improve Students’ Grades,” The Associated Press, October, 1999.
Employers look favorably upon musicians.
One in three of today’s school-aged children will hold an arts-related job at some time in his or her career.– Education Commission on the States
To paraphrase a remarkable music educator from Virginia named Anne Rupert: It has been said by an employer, a lawyer with his own practice and team of lawyers that work for him, that there are two activities that really say a lot about a person…being a boy or girl scout throughout high school, or being a musician. These two activities show dedication and that you can do something for the long haul. They show that you can take one thing, focus on it, and be good at it. Both of these activities show teamwork and the ability to work with others. By being a musician, you declare yourself a proven intellectual and someone who has substance of character and focus. You have proven that you have class and are sophisticated. You have proven that you can work as part of a group to accomplish something. You have also proven that you can sit down and pay attention to something for more than 20 minutes! These are qualities found in good people, and that’s what it’s all about. We’re not just making music when we teach kids…we’re making people.