We’ve all seen the extraordinary figures released earlier this year by the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis: The arts and cultural sector contributed over $760 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015. According to their data, the arts added four times more to the U.S. economy than the agricultural sector and $200 billion more than transportation or warehousing.
Staggering statistics, to be sure; indisputable in their depth and breadth.
But within and behind these statistics lie stories—stories about human capital and the limitless power of the arts to transform, to teach, and to trigger the brain to soar and to accelerate well beyond its own limits.
What falls beyond these extraordinary figures—and here, I refer to music and music education in particular—is a piece of knowledge that is at once as simple as it is profound:
Music changes lives. It is the tie that binds. It is what helps us make sense of the world around us and what adds structure, knowledge, emotion, connection, and context to our daily lives.
Music has a fingerprint; a fingerprint that reaches out and touches each one of us deeply, daily, in a way that is at once unique and universal. The miracle of sound is everywhere—and the fact that we can create these sounds to convey emotion, stimulate the brain and the body, and accelerate a young person’s social, cognitive, and emotional development in the classroom makes music far more than a tool for pleasure and entertainment.
It makes music a tool for learning and, ultimately, a tool for living.
Recently, in partnership with American for the Arts’ celebration of National Arts in Education Week, we at QuaverMusic.com recognized, yet again, the vital importance of music—not just as a driving, sustainable force in this creative economy but as the compellingly unique and universal language that it is. Take a look:
The Miracle of Music-Based Learning
At QuaverMusic.com, our innovative, cutting-edge music education company located at the heart of Nashville’s Music Row, we’ve put into full operation a music-based learning curriculum (MBL) that uses music to enrich and expand every aspect of a student’s academic, social and emotional development—not just in the music classroom but in other subjects such as math, science, and language arts.
Indeed, on a longer-term, wider-reaching, societal scale, MBL will help mold our young people into eventually becoming responsible, productive members of a competitive, compassionate workplace, where “soft skills” such as pro-social behavior, emotional control, empathy, coping skills, and problem-solving skills will be critical to success.
The music classroom is where all of this manifests, and with the guidance of a great teacher, this is the three-step process that unfolds:
- Music introduces emotion in the classroom,
- Emotion results in engagement, and
- As a result of this engagement, learning can take hold.
Music can be, should be, and is the primary engine that helps drive the development of these “soft skills” in measurable and miraculous ways. In today’s creative economy, “soft skills” are not really soft at all: They are hard, finite, and indispensable to the continued growth of the economy. Others agree.
Google Execs Sing a Similar Song
A detailed study was completed in December 2017 by Google on what makes a successful employee, and the results shocked everyone. The study concluded that, among the most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise came in dead last.
Of the seven characteristics of success at Google, all are “soft skills”—skills that we at QuaverMusic.com believe are honed, strengthened, and developed by music education. These are some of the characteristics that the Google execs identified:
- Being a good coach,
- Communicating and listening well,
- Understanding others (including those with different values and perspectives),
- Being a good critical thinking and problem-solver, and
- Being able to make connections across complex ideas.
All of these characteristics, in my opinion, are borne through the miracle of music. When we move inside the classroom, it is music that provides the most powerful, positive context for learning and living, in a way that no other subject can.
It’s what Plato knew from the very beginning:
“Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education.”
With apologies to Plato, let’s go even one better: Music is not just a potent instrument for education, but an instrument for living, connecting, inspiring, and integrating comprehensive concepts in a way that binds us all together, as one.
If we, as business leaders, artists, thought leaders, and responsible, productive citizens, plan on accelerating these impressive financial figures in the coming years, the sound of music must continue to resonate loudly and clearly.
This week, Americans for the Arts’ Business Committee for the Arts will convene to discuss and explore innovative ways to recognize, protect, and celebrate the arts. As a member of the Business Committee for the Arts, I look forward contributing to the discussion. It is collective, deliberative action such as this which propels and promotes the infinite power of art, in every form.
So let’s end where we started, with the solid acknowledgement that the arts have a tremendous impact on the economy. But let’s also remember that beyond the statistics lie the stories—the human stories of limitless growth and boundless potential.
Potential that is borne largely from the sound of a single musical note.