02/10/2015 11:37 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Should the Arts be Required?

As school budgets shrink, the question of if schools should require students to take a music or art class for at least a semester is brought up. Being a musician, I almost immediately jumped to schools requiring an art or music class. Art and music are aspects of our society that are so prevalent in everyday life that not teaching student about them is leaving them at a disadvantage in life. Even more personal than that, how would someone ever truly know if they wanted to be a musician or artist without first being able to experience it.

In the 5th grade, I was given a choice. I was asked if I wanted to play a brass instrument or sing. After choosing playing an instrument, I was then given the choice between the cornet, trombone, or a smaller tuba-like instrument. Without ever going down this path in my past, I would never have learned that playing music on the trumpet, ukulele, upright bass, mandolin or any other instrument I might want to learn would become an integral part of who I am. Now I play in a jazz improvisation group at my school, and it's easily one of my favorite periods that I have. I get to sit down, play classic jazz songs, and solo over them on a daily basis and there's nothing else I would rather do during that period.

But how does this relate to schools requiring an arts or music class? I find playing jazz to be one of the most relaxing things I do everyday in school. It's a moment of relaxation and distraction from normal school stress and drama. Everyone has a similar stress relief, but they come in different forms like drawing. Most people would never learn if they want to become and artist or musician without first experiencing it, which would never happen in their spare time. Another aspect of this is that there is so much more than just being an artist or musician. I have plenty of friends whose passion is music theory and transposing pieces of music or transcribing music for the musical or for a music group performing in the concert. Music and art are such inspiring and world changing passions that never trying either of them should be considered a taboo in society.

Music and art are also so prevalent in our society; it's impossible to ignore them. Everyone walks around listening to music, or visits a museum at some point whether it's for enjoyment or school. To not even learn about music or art, let alone participate, leaves the average person at a major disadvantage, because music and art are easily two of the most powerful forces in human society. Music and art have existed for millennia, and they are both world-wide "languages." If you can read sheet music, you can read sheet music from any country, language or ethnic background. If you can interpret an image, than you can understand art just the same as someone who reads sheet music can understand sheet music from anyone anywhere. These are not only international powers, but they are very historical powers as well. Art and music are used as expression of recent or historical events, as well as how the artist felt at that moment in the their life.

Many argue that high school students should be able to narrow their interests and use whatever time they have to do what they are passionate about instead of studying music or art, which they may never pursue. But with that logic nearly no one would take a math class. I may never even consider becoming a mathematician, so why should I "waste" my time studying something I will never pursue? I don't enjoy learning math because I enjoy the material, I find math interesting because of the life skills it teaches you. On every math test or quiz I have ever had, what I need to solve is noticeably harder from what I learned in class. This is because the point of math isn't to use a sine or cosine graph at some point in my life, the real point to math is to creative problem solving skills where you know the simpler version of what you were given, and from there can infer about what needs to be done to solve a harder problem. A similar process can be transferred to why studying music or art should be required.

Music and art teach students about precision, the science behind something, but also the feeling that goes into creating it. Sure, a painting using colors that complement each other will look better than one that uses brown and grey, but at the same time a painting that uses complementary colors badly will receive less merit than a beautifully crafted brown and grey painting. Using music theory to create a song that is "technically" perfect in terms of timing and pitch will sound like garbage if there is no feeling or finesse from the artist injected into the piece. Students will never truly know what they missed if they aren't shown the world of music or art, and with that a phenomenal world-changing musician dies with that lack of exposure.

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