“Everybody had access to Music, and everybody had access to Art. And the reason is because people understood, even though they hadn’t done the scientific research back then, that children who learn music do better in math. Kids’ whose imaginations are sparked by the Arts are more engaged in school… so these things aren’t extras, but they are part of a well-rounded education. Part of the reason why many schools have been eliminating or diminishing arts programs is because of No Child Left Behind… as school districts felt pressured to teach to the test.” Although these are words that we have heard ourselves saying over and over to each other for the past eight years, the above quote is from our new President-elect, Barack Obama, made during a recent speech made in Wallingford, Pennsylvania. Not only does he believe in the importance of music education, but he also indicated that we need to increase funding for arts and music not only in schools, but outside of schools as well. Clips of this speech can be seen on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN2Zy_68RcY).
In a statement delivered after the results of the election became official, Robert L. Lynch, the CEO of Americans for the Arts, reflected on the words of President-elect Obama: “His commitment to arts and arts education on the campaign trail is just a preview of what his administration can accomplish. Obama demonstrates the leadership and vision to advance the arts in America through investing in more arts education in public schools, advocating for increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, promoting cultural diplomacy, and supporting artists rights.”
The incoming administration offers a significant change in direction from the Bush years, when the arts suffered for a variety of reasons under the No Child Left Behind plan. One specific postive move Obama has already made was the appointment of Bill Ivey as the head of the transition team for Arts and Culture. Ivey served as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts from 1998 through 2001 and is the director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University. An article on Vanderbilt’s Web site states that, “Ivey is familiar with leading cultural agencies during difficult times. Ivey was appointed to the National Endowment for the Arts at a time when the arts were not allotted much importance by politicians, according to Metro Councilman Ronnie Steine, an advocate of the arts who has served on many Nashville boards.”
In this tumultuous economic climate, it is heartening to know that there is someone in the White House who believes strongly in the benefits of music education and who can help to pressure all levels of government to include music as an integral part of an effective education.