I don't know if it's like this where you live, but in Florida, our education system has gone through such a budget crisis that the latest news is that arts and music programs will be the first to go as numbers are crunched further. This breaks my heart, not only because I am a certified music teacher who would love to teach in the public school system, but also because I have seen first-hand the positive effects music has on young people. They need music in their daily lives! They need to be encouraged to pursue their dreams and they need teachers and other adults to believe in them.
This past weekend, my church hosted a state competition for 6-12 graders called Fine Arts. In this competition, students from different churches around the state participate in categories such as art, songwriting, sermon, vocal ensemble, vocal solo, and instrumental solo and have the opportunity to earn a superior with advance rating that allows them to compete at a national level Fine Arts. This year, I was supposed to be a judge for the keyboard category until a bout of sickness landed me in the ER. I missed my chance to be a part of this competition and I know I missed seeing some incredibly talented youth. I used to participate in this very competition when I was a teen in Kentucky. I went to nationals several times as well and these memories are some of my fondest as a budding musician.
What I remember most about Fine Arts was not the competition, because at times, it was fierce and the judgments weren't always fair. I remember the chance to interact with other teens who were just as passionate about music as I was, and the feeling of fitting into this fantastic culture that promoted arts among youth. The motivation I got from being involved in such a program was a great factor in my deciding to major in music in college.
My point is, our children and teens need our approval to go after their dreams in the arts, whether or not they get the opportunity in their own schools (sadly enough). One thing I love about kids is that they have little inhibitions. When I'm teaching a young voice student and I ask her to perform a warm-up exercise that may sound silly, she has a laugh, and does it anyway. When I ask her to perform in an upcoming showcase, she agrees because she knows the excitement of the performance will overpower the nerves. Somewhere along the line, we adults seem to lose the excitement of creating art and gain even more trepidation over the performance. What happens to the simple euphoria of singing and being a vital part of an art culture? What makes us afraid to be who we really are?
Imagine a world where we encouraged our youth to go after their music dreams with everything in them. Imagine if we kept encouraging them through adolescence and early adult-hood until they knew without a shadow of a doubt that they can be successful and have fun at the same time. Eventually we'd end up with some pretty solid, rockin' musicians! We desperately need to encourage the gift in our future musicians, artists, and authors. Don't miss your opportunity, however it may come, to shape the life of a child.