THE BLOG

Our Kids and Communities Need to Make Music to Succeed

05/04/2015 04:23 pm ET | Updated May 04, 2016

This Op-Ed is also a reflection of views held by Jeff Alexander - president, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association; Orbert Davis - co-founder & artistic director, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic; and Anthony Freud - general director, Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Take note: Thomas Edison played the piano; Albert Einstein studied piano and violin; PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi played in an all-girl rock band in high school; and Steve Jobs riffed Bob Dylan songs on the guitar. Seventy-five percent of Silicon Valley CEOs learned a musical instrument when young. And in the book Everything We Needed to Know about Business, We Learned Playing Music, 32 CEOs and business leaders say their career success reflected key parallels of musicianship and business, including confidence, self-esteem, teamwork, innovation and taking risks.

In the past two years, city and Chicago Public School leadership have made strides toward richer arts education in our city's schools. And following a robust Music in our Schools Month, there are questions we must ask. Do our school children truly benefit from this legacy? Do they grasp this city's musical -- and overall arts -- heritage? Do they -- all of them -- get the chance to develop their own creative and expressive skills through exploring and performing music? More importantly, are we cultivating Chicago's future creative thinkers and leaders?

Kids' creativity, as measured by the most recent Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking scores, has been sliding since 1990, most noticeably among our younger students. Reduced music and arts education is cited as a key factor. Meanwhile, more and more research underscores the transformative power of music education and the arts in enhancing children's cognitive skills. According to Americans for the Arts, students with four years of music or arts in high school, on average, score 100 points higher on the verbal and math portions of the SAT than those with just one-half year of music or other arts.

Too often we forget the degree to which music and the arts spark our children's emotional intelligence and creativity; support higher academic performance; build bridges between cultures; trigger inventiveness that defines today's top business talent; foster our city's next generation of engaged audiences and cultural consumers; and contribute $2.75 billion in annual spending to our state and $324 million in state and local revenues.

For our children's sake and our city's sake, it's time to drive a creative renaissance here in our schools - and the city's cultural institutions are united to help make it happen. Our four organizations have long provided deep support to music programs to our schools - whether it's the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Negaunee Music Institute and its Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultancy; Lyric Opera of Chicago's Lyric Unlimited Initiative and its work with Lyric's Creative Consultant, Renée Fleming; Ravinia's Reach*Teach*Play program; or the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic's Jazz Alive program, or the initiatives of others.

It's time our businesses, community, philanthropic groups and, indeed, all of us, elevate creative education as an imperative to achieving our city's broader ambitions. It's time to support our schools, teachers, the CPS Arts Education Plan and a bold, new movement called "Be Creative," which aims to provide deeper resources for arts instruction across Chicago's public schools.

Let's build on Chicago's reputation as a world-class city. We issue this call to action to guarantee Chicago's students, and those that follow them in the future -- benefit from this city's musical heritage. It's our legacy and our collective future. And as with education in all subjects, it must be nurtured and protected.