Music in the Schools
The Harmony Project:

"Learning to play an instrument takes patience,
persistence, and focus — the same qualities
students need to excel in school and in their future
career. We support our students every step of the
way, helping them achieve their goals throughout
their childhood."
When I started my career as a musician, I trained in music therapy in London, Great Britain. There I learned about the
basic beat. The basic beat is an interesting phenomenon: It suggests each of us has our own beat. If we listen to that
beat and its tempo, we function infinitely better. I have seen this while observing therapy sessions with young people of
special needs. I do not believe you need to have special needs to get in touch with that beat and benefit. Of course,
science did not sit still since then. It is not new information anymore that indeed music has far-reaching effects on the
functioning of the brain.

The National Association of Music Merchants Foundation shares a lot of current research findings online. When
discussing the importance of music in the schools, it shares the following reasons: “Music improves recall and retention
of verbal information, music advances math achievement, music boosts reading and English language arts (ELA) skills
and music increases average SAT scores.” One set of research findings is based on the Harmony Project in Los
Angeles. The project “provides free music instruction to thousands of disadvantaged children from gang-reduction
zones in Los Angeles.” The foundation’s research study, based on the Harmony Project, “provides the first direct
evidence that a community music program for at-risk youth has a biological effect on children’s developing nervous
systems.”

The same article covering this research reports: “Since 2008, 93 percent of Harmony Project seniors have graduated
in four years and gone on to colleges despite dropout rates of 50 percent or more in the neighborhoods where they
live” Margaret Martin, founder of the Harmony Project said: “Thanks to this finding, sustained music training is now an
evidence-based method for closing the achievement gap between poor kids and their more advantaged peers.” I
expect we will come across more research that will support these findings.

The Harmony Project provided instruments to the young students and they were taught five hours per week. This
requires a systemic change in the education of young people. I can imagine, based on budgets, that this change
sounds completely out of line with reality. However, our reality is that schools in east Gainesville have difficulty
attracting more students from the rest of Gainesville, mainly due to low school grades. The schools in west Gainesville
are overcrowded. There is an achievement gap and so far we have not been able to get into a better situation.
Hopefully our incoming superintendent will have innovative ideas to help this situation. Gainesville For All, I understand,
is working on innovative ideas and real solutions. I do not believe we can afford a breakdown in the education offered
to all students. Public education can and does work. It may need a philosophy that includes intensive use of music to
bring up the achievement of the school system in Gainesville and the rest of Alachua County.

I hope doors will open and our Gainesville leaders review that incredible connection between music and the
development of the brain. I hope they will see there is indeed a direct line to better chances for the economically
disadvantaged population, among others. It is time music is no longer seen as an elective activity for the privileged, but
a right for us all.
Expand music programs in schools
By Annemieke Pronker-Coron / Special to The Sun - Posted May 16, 2017 at 2:00 AM

This year there is real excitement in Gainesville: Our mayor, Lauren Poe is very active as are many
leaders of our community. Nationally, Gainesville scores highly in a variety of ways. In other words,
Gainesville is a great place to live. I feel fortunate to have been a member of the community for 25 years
now. There is a recent wave of excitement regarding Gainesville being a welcoming city and the initiative
of Gainesville For All, focusing on poverty and racism. I am proud of our community leaders. Yet I would
love to see a fresh new initiative aimed at further increasing music education in our schools.

I believe music is a cornerstone of life that goes well beyond its current status as recreation and an
outlet for creativity. Music is not just for the privileged among us. Music is not just an elective that can be
part of the school’s curriculum, alongside sports and visual arts. Music is a major element of life: from
the start of the human species music/sound has been and is a language that stretches beyond the
borders of nations and peoples.