Art and Music Education
Art and music were woven into the curriculum at Sedge Garden Elementary School in Kernersville, North Carolina, where I attended fourth and fifth grades. We had an actual music teacher, and each of us had a tonette, the only musical instrument I ever mastered. We began with Twinkle, Twinkle Light Star, just as children beginning Suzuki violin and cello lessons do now.
We were all encouraged to watch Leonard Bernstein conduct the New York Philharmonic for the CBS television series Young People’s Concerts, then to write the maestro a letter letting him know what we thought. The teacher offered to mail our letters for us. I don’t know if anyone else watched or wrote. I know I did, and you can imagine my delight upon receiving a reply from Leonard Bernstein himself. What an impression those concerts and that letter made on me. I owe what knowledge and appreciation I have for music to seeds planted by an elementary school music teacher whose name sadly I no longer recall. Teachers make a difference. Music makes a difference.
The same is true with art education. I do not recall ever having had an actual art teacher, but I remember that art and art projects were part of our school curriculum. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Hoots, taught us to carve potatoes and make potato stamps that we used to create prints. My mother still has a set of placemats I cut from holly green felt and embellished with a single holly leaf stamped in gold or silver paint. I’d planned out what I wanted to do, carved the shape, and stamped out the design all by myself. Who knew such was possible? I suspect my teacher’s careful instructions, enthusiasm, and confidence that we all had creativity and skills enough to think up and create something uniquely our own swept away any hesitation we had another “doing an art project.” Art matters. Teachers matter.
With budget cutbacks, few children have access to art and music education in our public schools, and this saddens me deeply. Art and music are fundamental, and I encourage all of us to provide the children in our lives with access and exposure to art and music. The experiences last a life time.