Hands playing piano

Students are embracing music, even as COVID restrictions create challenges.

No matter what the learning model, we still have plenty of music happening in our District 423 schools. Public performances with live audiences may not occur for a while, but singing, dancing, listening to music, playing in the band, and singing in the choir are alive and well.

I believe this is a very good thing for our students. If you look up, music and the brain, benefits of music, or the Mozart effect you will find lists and studies about the benefits. Here is a paraphrased list of 10 health benefits taken from a study by Pfizer: Music improves your memory, focus, creativity and IQ score. It can provide you with coping mechanisms and help control pain. Music improves productivity levels and visual attention. It can help with heart disease and even bolster your immune system.

I asked some of our district’s music teachers for help with this article. I requested examples of resilience and growth in their music students during this current school year. Even with everything on their plates, I received wonderful examples.

An eighth-grade percussion student had a lesson without needed materials. He had a “fantastic” lesson using a pencil, stick and a bucket. Students who took lessons from home with sleeping night-shift parents “fingered along” and made it work.

At the elementary level, technology is playing a big role in music instruction as well as the use of creative ways of including instruments, dancing, singing games and partner activities. To safely play recorders in fourth and fifth grades, bell covers and masks are in place.

In high school, band students are missing camaraderie and craving playing in an ensemble. They are continuing to learn music theory, apply for music scholarships and audition for All-State Band.

Choir students are also missing and craving performances. They consistently “show up” in the choir room to work hard to improve their musicianship.

It is obvious that our music teachers are deeply connected to their students. They are learning new ways to build relationships while promoting the benefits of music.

My personal pandemic experience is a further example of the importance of music. I am quite sure that my mother has been mentioned in a previous column, and this one is no different. Most Wednesdays I go to Minneapolis to visit her. We enjoy lunch together and then make music.

She was a music teacher, and at 97 she still accompanies me on the piano as she has since I started playing violin at age 9. It takes us a while to warm up, but by playing the same pieces week after week, before long we sound pretty good. We work on phrasing, dynamics and tempo changes to improve the musicality. We also reminisce about when and where we first played each piece. While my mom stretches her arthritic fingers to reach an octave, our brains are engaged.

Making music or listening to music benefits us all in so many ways. So sing, hum, whistle or drum your bucket. There is both light and music at the end of the COVID tunnel. Thank you music teachers.

Mom, I will see you next Wednesday.

JoEllen Kimball is a member of the District 423 School Board. You, Your Kids & School is a twice-a-month column from School District 423.