The Power of the Music (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Tim Mikulski, Sep 15, 2010 0 comments

Tim Mikulski

As I began writing this blog post, which is serving as both the regular weekly “Arts Canvas” piece for Arts Watch and as one of 29 blog entries that will make up our Arts in Education Week Blog Salon on ARTSBlog, I have my office door closed and my portable iPod speaker is quietly playing the music of an independent singer/songwriter who happens to be from my hometown in Southern New Jersey. It’s one of those days when I need help focusing and Matt Duke’s music is helping.

And that got me thinking about the influence that music has had on my life over the past 30 years. It just so happens that I just moved out of my twenties over the past weekend and I’m in a reflective mood.

If you don’t mind the indulgence, I’d like to leave the serious arts education policy discussions up to the very capable (and excellent) other arts education bloggers for the week and explore those thoughts.

Now… back to my original point.

All I have to do is hear the first few notes or words of a song on my iPod, on the radio, or even as part of the soundtrack of a movie, and I can be instantly transported back to a certain day or short period of time in my life. I’m sure it is the same for most of you.

Some songs or pieces of music are linked to moments outside of the school setting (I can’t hear 1970s hit “Ring My Bell” without automatically flashing to my Old Navy days), yet just as many are directly linked to my music experiences throughout my K-12 education. Here are just a few off the top of my head:

  1. “The Rainbow Connection” – Whenever I hear the Kermit the Frog version of this song, or any of the hundreds of covers out there, I see a 10-year-old version of me in our elementary school music class singing along with Mrs. Hitchens’ upright piano. Whenever we were allowed to pick any song we wanted to sing that day, “The Rainbow Connection” was it.
  2. “Surfin’ USA” – We sang this Beach Boys song during our fifth grade spring concert, along with a ton of songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s, as the entire concept behind the concert was that two kids were sucked into their TV and into the past. We had our own version of Elvis, Chiquita Banana singers, and this surfing classic. I was part of the mini-chorus that got to sing the “Inside, Outside, USA” backup part while everyone else had to learn ALL the words.
  3. “The Grease! Megamix” – While this mix of all of the most popular songs from the musical and movie came out much later, the second I hear We Go Together’s nonsense chorus, I laugh at the thought of my fellow high school musical (sans Zack Efron) friends trying to get the words right. “Ramma lamma lamma kidinga da dinga dong…?” Who decided that was a good idea? Oh, and I am pretty sure I can also still recite Eugene’s entire opening monologue on the spot if needed.
  4. “Something to Talk About” by Bonnie Raitt – Although not music-class related,  I can picture myself getting my heart broken for the first time as I found out that my sixth-grade girlfriend and a friend of mine decided that was their song. Oh the betrayal…

Ok, Tim. So what is the point of this ridiculous blog post?

Even as I was typing out those moments of my life, I could picture the classroom, elementary school all-purpose room, high school chorus space, and the back of my sixth-grade homeroom without a problem.

That’s the power of music, art, dance, and theater.

How can I just stand by and let other kids be deprived of making those memories to reflect back on some 20+ years later? I can’t. And you shouldn’t either.

Take a moment today and promise yourself (and me if you want) that you will do something in your local community to support education during this first National Arts in Education Week. Then, pledge to testify on behalf of you and the next generation at a board of education meeting during March 2011 (National Arts Education/Youth in Arts Month).

What songs, pieces of music, works of art, dances, etc. has stayed with you over the years?

Arts Watch is a weekly cultural policy publication of Americans for the Arts that covers news in a variety of categories related to cultural policy including Culture and Communities, Arts Education and the Creative Workforce, Public Investment in Culture and Creativity, and Philanthropy and the Private Sector. The newsletter also features an Arts Watch Spotlight item and Arts Canvas – News from the Field, a short piece written by a different Americans for the Arts staffer each week.

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