Why music class should be on every student’s schedule

Benefits of music class might just be want students need in these difficult times

Top+21+performs+for+students%2C+staff+in+the+main+lobby+of+the+high+school+before+the+holiday+break.

James Cromie

Top 21 performs for students, staff in the main lobby of the high school before the holiday break.

By Meghan DeHaven, Bethel Park High School

Remote learning, social distancing, mask-wearing, and quarantining, for example, have made being a student particularly challenging in these current times. Amidst all the noise of the pandemic, music is something that students can turn to because of its intrinsically therapeutic qualities.

“Music is valuable by itself because it has inherent artistic, social and intellectual value,” BPHS Black Hawk Marching Band director Mr. Thompson said.

Along with directing the marching band, Mr. Thompson teaches Freshman Band, Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Jazz Ensemble. He has been teaching for 13 years.

Music class, in particular, gives students an opportunity to more formally learn, practice, and appreciate music and therefore more aptly reap the benefits.

Symphonic Band plays for the Senior Citizens Luncheon on Friday, Dec. 17 in the main lobby of the high school. (James Cromie)

I always walk out of my music classes feeling so much happier than I did before I walked in.”

— Clara McGough

“Music is my life… quite honestly, I can’t imagine my day without it,” sophomore Clara McGough said. “I always walk out of my music classes feeling so much happier than I did before I walked in.”

McGough is enrolled in Chamber Orchestra and Treble Choir and will star as Ella in this year’s spring musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.

Music classes are not recognized enough for their many benefits. These benefits include reduced stress, improved mental health, better academics, increased self-expression, etc. Therefore, every student should consider taking a music class.

Mental and emotional benefits of taking a music class

The mental and emotional benefits of music class cannot be overlooked.

According to Viewpoint Center, “Researchers from the University of Vermont have shown that musical training can lead to lower anxiety in children and help with emotional control.”

Music is proven to have a positive effect on people’s moods and mental health.

Sophomore violinist Ana Winowich said: “Music classes make me so happy. It is a nice little break in my day to have Orchestra and helps me escape from stressful things.”  

“I believe the practice and discipline of anything musical often leads to joy and can be therapeutic, even for those with lower affinity for music,” said WTAE Pittsburgh’s Action News Four anchor and reporter Shannon Perrine, who has an extensive background in music and encourages her three children to partake in music classes.

I believe the practice and discipline of anything musical often leads to joy and can be therapeutic, even for those with lower affinity for music.”

— Shannon Perrine, WTAE News Anchor

Those who participate in music whether it’s private lessons or classes in school tend to have better mental and emotional health.

Academic benefits of taking a music class

Music classes also benefit students academically.

It is recommended that children and teenagers should enroll themselves in music classes because it develops their minds musically and mathematically, and it improves their vocabulary.

For example, choir students learn songs in different languages. This strengthens their vocabulary in English and foreign languages.  

According to Dosomething.org, “Children who study music tend to have larger vocabularies and more advanced reading skills than their peers who do not participate in music lessons.”

“Music classes introduce concepts of math, language, and world culture to students who may not otherwise be exposed to those concepts enough,” Perrine said.

Learning different songs in an ensemble-type class also strengthens memorization.

Social benefits of taking a music class

Music classes, along with improving academics and mental health, encourages students to branch out and make new friends.

Members of the trumpet section in the Black Hawk Marching Band at the football game against West Allegheny this fall (Shelley Crowe)

At BPHS, the Music Department acts like a family where everyone is very loving and supportive. 

When asked about his favorite part of taking a music course, senior Evan Isenberg said: “Making music with your music family. You start to feel more as a whole when you work towards the same end goals with others.”

Isenberg is enrolled in Top 21, Symphonic Band, Concert Choir, and AP Music Theory. He is one of the drum captains in the Black Hawk Marching Band.

Along with music classes and marching band, Isenberg also takes part in the spring musicals. This year, he will take the stage as Prince Topher in “Cinderella.” 

Isenberg enjoys sharing bonds with his classmates and castmates. “[Music] allows you to break out of your shell and share memories like no other program,” Isenberg said.

[Music] allows you to break out of your shell and share memories like no other program.”

— Evan Isenberg

 “The amazing friendships I have made, and how close everyone is,” freshman saxophone and flute player Lucy Heckla said when asked about her favorite thing about taking a music class. “I feel like so many people in music class are really similar to me, one reason being that we all share a love for music.” 

There are special bonds made within the music department. Not only do the students feel loved, but so do the teachers. One of these teachers is Mr. Kuczawa. 

Mr. Kuczawa has been teaching chorus for 29 years. He taught IMS choir for six years and BPHS choir for 23 years. Mr. Kuczawa currently teaches Top 21, Treble Choir, and Concert Choir at BPHS. 

Top 21 at their picnic this past summer (Shelley Crowe)

Mr. Kuczawa said, “Being part of the BP music family we have created is especially rewarding.”

Should a music class be required?

It is important to take a music class because of all of the benefits that come along with taking them, but should students be obligated to take a music class? 

Students at BPHS are not required to take music classes to graduate as of right now.

Mr. Kuczawa said: “Music is required through 8th grade. There is a fine arts requirement to graduate, just not music directly.”

Perrine said: “I do believe a brief music class should be required for graduation.  Like physical education, the arts often light a spark in young people, opening their minds to new ideas and dreams.”

Isenberg said: “As a music student, I do believe students should be required to take a class that correlates with at least some music. Be it Concert Band or Concert Choir… No audition is needed and anyone is welcome!”

BPHS offers many music courses including Music Production, Songwriting, and Music Theory. They offer different band, chorus, and orchestra classes such as Concert Band, Treble Choir, Concert Choir, String Orchestra, etc. 

Some audition music classes students can take are Top 21, Chamber Orchestra, Jazz Band, and Symphonic Band.

Even if students don’t take a music class in school, they could still participate in lessons outside of school just for enjoyment and not for a grade. Common private lessons people take are voice lessons, piano lessons, and drum lessons, but there are many more that a person can derive pleasure from. 

Students should still explore taking music classes to experience the benefits even if they aren’t required to graduate. There couldn’t be a better time to do so than right now.

This story was originally published on Hawk Eye on January 20, 2022.