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Education chief says music can reconnect with school


Nashville, Tenn. (AP) — The home of U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona as a child was filled with music. Both of his parents were artists, and he and his siblings were their support group.

“My brother played guitar and I played percussion. My sister joined in the backing vocals. We grew up singing together, and music played an important role in our childhood and our connection to our roots,” he said.

But he says that in too many school systems, students don’t have access to music education or instruments. After two years of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, American schools are grappling with teacher shortages in some areas, renewed calls for school safety and dramatic setbacks in learning. Cardona believes that music education is part of the solution to rebuilding students and their schools.

“Now, as a father, seeing how music teachers have helped my kids for the past two years, they were in high school during the pandemic, and they missed their sense of community,” Cardona said. “And these music teachers know how to reconnect them to the community.”

Cardona was in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday to meet with educators from across the United States who have been selected as Excellence Music Teachers by the Country Music Association Foundation. The CMA’s charitable arm has donated $29 million over the years to support a variety of music education programs, including service grants to nonprofit organizations, funds for teacher professional development, mentorships for teachers and other forms of assistance.

Vivian Gonzalez, a teacher at Miami Arts Studio 6-12 @ Zelda Glazer in Florida, said she’s adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic to teaching music online and in person, but it’s been a challenge. But as students and parents struggle with the side effects of the pandemic, she said music and art teachers are tuned in to these changes.

“While the students were away, we had many students who were suffering from housing instability and food instability and who were having mental health crises in their homes and personally themselves,” said Gonzalez, who was the one of 30 teachers named music teachers of excellence this year. “And what we found was that our art teachers were the most alert to these situations, because we’ve known these students for so long.”

Cardona said he heard of teachers in Texas who started mariachi bands to keep students connected to their schools. Some students said music programs were the main thing that kept them in school during the pandemic.

“I have to say music teachers have had to innovate the most, introduce students to instruments they may not have access to, or keep them engaged,” he said.

Emily Riley, another teacher honored this year, said music builds self-esteem and discipline through practice, but it also helps children develop relationship skills.

“I think one of the things people are really worried about is social skills coming out of the pandemic,” said Riley, a music teacher at Julia Green Elementary School in Nashville. “That has always been a value of music education, especially in elementary school.”

Country star Kix Brooks, one half of the hit duo Brooks & Dunn, was one of the artists who helped bring awareness to the needs of music programs. What started with a focus on Nashville schools has spread across the country, thanks in part to money raised by artists performing for free at the annual CMA Fest, which raised $2 million this summer. dollars for the foundation.

“We had enough money at the time to start reaching out to New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles, the big cities where there are huge concentrations of kids who don’t have music programs,” said Brooks, whose sister was a teacher in Nashville.

On Wednesday night, teachers and their principals met and dined with country stars like Maddie & Tae, Ashley McBryde and Brittney Spencer. Tiffany Kerns, executive director of the CMA Foundation, said the idea for an evening to celebrate teachers came from their assertion that music education was treated as secondary to core subjects.

“One of the main things teachers told us was, ‘We don’t feel valued within the walls of our school. We are not viewed as a subject in the same way as math, science and literacy in English,” Kerns said. “And so, they felt like they were treated less and never recognized.

Before dinner, Brooks warmed up with a band of high school musicians to a rendition of her song, “Rock My World (Little Country Girl).” But while the kids had learned the song the way it was recorded, Brooks was teaching learning to improvise on stage, a key skill for any musician in Nashville.

“I also throw them a curve ball because they learned the disc as it is,” he said. I’ll have a harmonica and I’ll play with you guys.


Online: https://cmafoundation.org/


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