During the 1960’s and 1970’s the majority of public schools in the United States had regular music and art programs as part of their curriculum. Art teachers and music teachers were employed by the schools and children as young as Kindergarten received instruction in both music and art.
Every week, children would have singing lessons, be introduced to instruments, and learned about the great composers. Art instruction included using mediums such as watercolor, charcoal, and tempura paints, as well as art history lessons and exposure to artists from across the centuries. Children were provided with all the materials they would need, and musical instruments were rented to families who did not have their own, for a nominal fee.
At some point in time around the early 1980’s, music and art instruction in the public schools came to an end. Budget cuts were blamed and schools were left scrambling to find the money to continue their art and music programs in the schools. Art and music teachers were not rehired and classroom teachers attempted to take over. Much of what they taught was based on what they had learned from the professional art and music teachers in years past. Schools in more affluent area were able to carry on with their programs, in large part because of the donations of time and supplies made by their parents who could financially sustain them.
During the 1990’s they was a resurgence of music and art programs due to the efforts of the large artistic and musical communities who saw the need for this type of instruction in the public schools. Movies like Mr. Holland’s Opus opened our eyes to the need for these programs by our young people.
Do music and art programs in the schools really help our children learn academic subjects more easily? Music is associated with mathematics, patterns, and memory function. Art stimulates a part of the brain that has been linked to writing proficiency. Music and art programs do add to our children’s academic progress and should be a regular part of their school curriculum.