Playing guitars (copy)

Students and their music teacher play guitars during band club during choice time in November 2017 at Sandberg Elementary School. 

“Playing music … is about heart, it's about feelings, moving people, and something beautiful … it's not about notes on a page.” ~ Glenn Holland in "Mr. Holland’s Opus"

Cuts, cuts, and more budget cuts — to public school arts programs. It was a focus in "Mr. Holland’s Opus" more than 20 years ago, and it is the current reality today.

But these cuts go directly against the betterment of our children. We will state it bluntly: Music can — and must — be an important part of the curriculum in the K-12 educational setting.

We are passionate about music education, as it is a path to lifelong learning and provides knowledge of both self and culture. And in our efforts to make the greatest impact possible we have supported — during our 40+ years in the industry — the not-for-profit National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). This organization works tirelessly to promote music education and reminds the world that music is a very important component of any young person’s education.

The best way to close out March is to recognize nationally recognized Music in Our Schools Month, to show our support for music in the life of students and to work to reverse the decline of music education in the United States.

Over the years we have made many trips to Washington, D.C., to work with Congress to fix “No Child Left Behind,” as it must transform into a program that is friendly to arts and music education. The traditional idea that music is “extracurricular” is a mistake: Music is integral to students developing life-changing skills.

We have both seen firsthand the positive effects that music has on children, and how music education shapes our nation’s young people into fully contributing members of society. If a musician comes to us looking for a job, we know this is someone who knows how to work with other people and is prepared for the 21st century workplace.

But don’t just take our word for it — NAMM has collected data that demonstrate the many ways music education has a significant and positive influence on school-aged children.

Educationally, schools with strong music education programs show higher graduation rates. There is a great deal of data that backs up this claim, as students involved in music are shown to have improved recall and retention of verbal information, more advanced math achievement, and are more likely to go to college.

Cognitively, music training contributes auditory and motor function. Children who are exposed to music demonstrate stronger listening and language skills, which as we all know are essential life skills.

Socially, children who study a musical instrument are more likely to excel in their studies and work better in teams. Music is shown to enhance critical-thinking skills and teaches children creativity, concentration, and even discipline and cooperation. Musicians know how to accomplish and solve problems.

We encourage you to take action that will help promote music and music education to our youngest generation. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Donate to a great cause.

If you feel strongly about the importance of music education, consider helping out the cause with a generous cash donation. Not sure where to give? Look to your local schools, or the NAMM Foundation.

2. Share music.

Simply listen to some great music with the young people in your life — there are so many genres! Jazz, bluegrass, classic rock, classical, country western, techno, and big band are just a handful to get you started.

3. Encourage the young people in your life to learn how to play an instrument.

It’s never too early or too late to pick up an instrument, and benefit from increased memory and the bonus of potentially adding a lifelong skill to one’s arsenal.

At a poignant point in "Mr. Holland’s Opus," Glenn Holland responds to news that there will be dramatic cutting of the art programs at the school: “Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want, Gene. Sooner or later, these kids aren't going to have anything to read or write about.”

And that is the absolute truth. Without art, we become lesser people and diminish as humanity.

The music must continue to play.

Susan Lipp is chairman of the board of Full Compass. Jonathan Lipp is founder of Full Compass. Full Compass, headquartered in Madison, is one of the largest woman-owned businesses in the state and a national leader in professional audio, video, lighting and musical instrument sales.

The Lipps have been active contributors to NAMM’s music education programs over the decades, with Susan previously serving on the NAMM board. As well, Jonathan and Susan Lipp actively work to keep music alive and thriving in our schools — both in the greater Madison area and beyond.

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