Sunday, March 20, 2011

Heartened by City's Music Program

I wrote the following for today's Portsmouth Herald Opinion Page. It's also available online here.

Last evening I attended Portsmouth Middle School’s wonderful “Music in Our Schools Month” Concert in the PHS auditorium. The annual event featured performances by the Jazz Band, Rock Band, 6th Grade Chorus, 7th and 8th Grade Chorus, Flute Ensemble, Clarinet Ensemble and 8th Grade Band. I came away from the night proud of our community’s well established and flourishing music program. For the several hundred parents and grandparents in the audience, it was immediately evident that these programs are embraced by the students, who fill the stage and appear to be participating in record numbers. There is no doubt that music is an important part of their lives.

As an educator, I realize the power of a balanced curriculum that includes strong creative studies. Our economy is increasingly shaped by innovation and technological advancement. The skills that define the workforce of the 21st century are learned not only in the science lab and mathematics classroom, but also in art and band rooms. It was not by chance that during my years at the University of Chicago, the student orchestra was filled with physics, science, mathematics and medical students. The great thinkers of our future will depend on creative problem solving skills that are significantly developed through music and art studies.

As a musician I can attest to the role music plays in building social capital. What is social capital? Lew Feldstein, former president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation describes it best: social capital "refers to the bonds that tie a community together - bonds that make communities safer, schools better and people healthier. When people are invested in their communities, they are more likely to vote, volunteer and care for one another." Participation in music programs from the earliest ages through adulthood is one of the strongest ways to build social capital in your community. I see it every day here in Portsmouth.

As a parent I am proud to see my sons express themselves through music. It’s not easy being a teenager, and in this day of cyber-bullying, and the constant bombardment of commercial entertainment, creative outlets are critical to the health and well-being of our children. It was a joy to hear them perform Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” with their friends Wednesday night.

As a citizen of Portsmouth, I value the education our children receive in the public schools - every aspect of that education. I am grateful to our music teachers for the high quality education they provide. I congratulate the students for a job well done. And I have some hope for our future because our community has deemed education to be of great value. Let’s keep it that way.

Russ Grazier Jr.
Executive Director of the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center
Vice President of the Parents Music Club
PHS Class of 1986
Proud Parent