Since I last blogged, I've spent a just over a week in th USA. In northern California I visited excellent music practitioners in both state and private schools and pre-schools, as well as choral organiasations such as the San Francisco Girls' Chorus and the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir.
The week was jam packed with engagements throughout, thanks to my PA for the week, Cheryl Keller. It's interesting that in the USA their education system is similar to ours in the UK - quite different from Finland. It's a struggle to get music into schools. However, it's clear from my observations that if music is given chance to flourish, the kids will thrive - whether they go to private or state.
At the end of the day, it comes down to teacher training: without teachers who are trained to deliver music, schools either get none - or maybe worse, get some that is very poor quality. I've heard teachers in the UK say: 'well as long as they're having fun'. No! That isn't how it works - music, which can be taught brilliantly through singing Kodaly methods, is a subject that teaches us so much. It isn't just a brilliant subject in its own right, which of course it is, but it can teach you language, helps with numeracy, develops a high level of concentration, increased self esteem, makes you a team player, connects to your inner self through emotions.....the list can go on.
When I visited the Piedmont East Bay Choirs - a choral progarmme that covers ages 4 right through to school leavers - I talked with some of their singers and asked them what they got out of being part of choir and why choral education is so important. One reason was 'music gives you skills that you can apply to different careers' and that 'choir helps your mental health and gives me motivation to do your schoolwork.' Another chorister said that 'there's so much you have to account for when you're singing or reading music - there's so much happening at the same time.' All these skills and more, gained from musical education, can be applied to so many life situations. May employers look favourably at people who have studied music BECAUSE of the skills singers and musicians have.
Since Friday 4th October I've been in Indianapolis, where I've been focusing on the Indianapolis Children's Choir - an immense organisation that serves over 2000 young people and children. Their concerts at the weekend were superb - and I'm enjoying getting to know their team. I'll report more on this in my next blog.