Playing music changed my life, should be required in K-12

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Max Mullins, Staff Writer

My first memories of playing music go back to when I was in elementary school, signing songs and learning “Hot Cross Buns” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the recorder. Although the recorder is often ridiculed, perhaps justly, it inspired me to pick up the instrument that has been a huge part of my life ever since.

I have been playing the piano for about a decade, and I can’t imagine life without it. My favorite way to relieve stress is to play a piece that I have down to muscle memory and watch my hands make music almost by themselves.

Sadly, it’s getting harder and harder for students to enjoy the same programs I did.

The students attending my elementary school are still lucky enough to have the local education foundation paying for their music classes, but many other schools are not so lucky without the state footing the bill.

Despite budget cuts, music should be a priority in public schools because of the positive effects it has on the students that participate.

I should know, because I played music in the public school system for 12 years.

If I had not gotten a chance to experiment with music at school, I don’t think I ever would have been motivated to pick up such a rewarding hobby.

Middle school brought a whole new musical experience. I had the option to choose one elective class, and I picked the band. I learned to play the French horn alongside many of my classmates, many of whom have become some of my closest friends.

The band competed in numerous events over three years, with the bus trips to and from serving as bonding time for the band members. Sports are often given credit for building connections within a group, and are encouraged because they build character and foster friendships. As someone with plenty of experience with both sports and music, I can say that these band events built a similar kind of camaraderie.

In high school I continued to play music with many of the same friends from middle school in the jazz band and the wind ensemble. As school became a greater source of stress, those two classes became the only ones I looked forward to. Zero period wind ensemble had me looking forward to waking up in the morning in a way that no other class could have.

Meanwhile, the music competitions helped me make even more friends.

However, even in the few short years since I left, things have changed a lot. Cuts to the number of teachers at my high school have limited students to one elective, making them choose between a language, which is required by University of California colleges, and art or music.

As a result many of the music classes have trouble filling their quota of students, and face annual fears of being cut. The orchestra was one of the budget cut’s first casualties.

With all the benefits that a student can get from being exposed to music in school, it is important that they have the opportunity. Funding for these programs is vital, and California should do more to make sure they have the money they need.

While I do not play in a band anymore, I have maintained many of the friendships that the middle school and high school bands sparked, and I still use piano as a way to relax.

I am eternally grateful for the musical experiences that I had in school, and I feel that they helped make me the person I am today.