Placido Domingo: Require music in schools

Opera star Placido Domingo calls for requiring music education in an interview with John Merrow. Learning Matters’ full music education story will air on PBS NewsHour this week. It features Domingo conducting a concert of New York city students from P.S. 129 and 152 as part of the Harmony Program, which offers free after-school music education to mostly low-income students.

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  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    Require everything good in schools. Make them 12 hours a day. Provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then we’ll have youth we can be proud of.

  2. Music should be mandatory.
    Art should be mandatory.
    Foreign langauge should be mandatory.
    Phys ed should be mandatory.
    What about reading, writing, arithmatic.

    There are limits to what time and budget can provide. Also, forcing participation upon kids that don’t want to be there can create a disruption upon all. My MS aged kids presently are required to participate in a music option at their school. They absolutely hate it. They have been playing piano since they were in kindergarten. They have also been part of a choral group at our conservatory. But they hate the school music options and want out – can’t wait until HS where the the mandatory fine arts option is broadened.

    Placido Domingo needs a dose of mandatory linear algebra and multivariable calculus.

  3. “Require music in schools”

    Yeah, great way to get kids to hate music. I gave up reading for several years after the way “language arts” was taught in middle school. I remember reading books I HATED that, upon re-reading on my own, found to be not so bad.

  4. As I’ve said before, just because something is a good idea doesn’t mean that the schools should be the ones doing it. While I believe that music appreciation/history and art history should be part of the social studies curriculum in k-8, taught by the regular teachers (as mine did) I have never encountered a course in either that was taught by art or music teachers. Their only interest was in student performance and not all kids have the interest or the talent.

    I’m in favor of removing all extracurriculars, with the exception of academic ones like debate or a literary magazine (do they still exist?). They could use school facilities, but local organizations should run them. Schools should be about academics and they aren’t doing well enough on that mission to take on more.

  5. My kids are all in private schools which offer art and music classes and foreign languages. It’s great. By no means are the academics given short shrift.

    Any student at any school will encounter subjects they don’t like, and activities they don’t want to do. That’s life.

    Cutting arts and music from the school day won’t improve academic offerings. To judge from news reports, some public schools are devoting all academic time to prepping for the NCLB math and reading exams. That’s not a good education.

    • I have no problem with schools offering art and music instruction, but I do have a problem with requiring it. I say the same about PE; the kids most in need of exercise are unlikely to put forth any effort and at MS-HS levels it is an inefficient use of time.

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        The gym thing is so true. The kids most likely to enthusiastically participate in a P.E. class are already athletes and don’t need the exercise. The kids who have two left feet, are awkward, or obese are going to hold back and do the minimum necessary to pass – in part because they’re in class with the athletes and feel intimidated. Let P.E. be an elective, or, better yet, use the school facilities much like a YMCA or traditional gym. Or, better still, buy a YMCA membership for any kid who requests it and leave it at that. We’d save a ton of money. An annual youth YMCA membership near me runs about $400 per year. If they don’t use the membership at least 10 times in the current year then the next year it shouldn’t be available.

        • Probably the most truthful comment I have ever heard from a teacher or administrator about PE requirements was in response to a suggestion I made that kids playing school sports should be given a semester’s PE credit for each athletic season played (as my DH’s HS did). The instant, horrified response was, “But then we wouldn’t need as many PE teachers!” She immediately tried to back-track, but she was right; a large fraction of the school played at least one sport for at least two years and many played every year, often more than one sport. It’s really all about jobs for adults, not what’s best for kids.

          The same situation exists for art and music; required courses mean teaching jobs.

          • Many, probably most, of the teachers want to share something they love doing and think will be beneficial for kids, but the jobs issue does exist and I think it does interact with the decision-making process of what will and won’t be mandatory. I have seen this just recently, when the local PE teachers, and some of their students, attended school board meetings in matching, logo t-shirts supporting increased HS PE requirements and I saw it in the past over increasing art and music requirements in ES.

  6. Yikes. At the very least, schools must teach choral singing. A sense of rhythm and the rudimentary ability to read music are not just talents that deserve to be developed, they also affect academic achievement. At the high school level, band and orchestra and chorus are all that keeps some kids going.

    • Because band, orchestra, or chorus is all that keeps some kids going, it should be mandatory for all? Why must choral singing be the minimal method for teaching rhythm and ability to read music?

      Rhythm and ability to read music by itself is not what affects academic achievement. Rather, the recognition of the patterns within the music itself.

      But, while I appreciate music and my kids participate outside of school with great instructors that I have selected who keep my kids engaged and push their abilities, I disagree that music should be mandatory. My kids hate it at school. Their friends don’t like it. I’m not advocating elimination, just allow as an elective.

      • Mandatory in elementary school, so that children will know enough so that they can choose optional advanced work in MS and HS.

  7. Some thoughts from a musician:

    A sense of rhythm and the rudimentary ability to read music are not just talents that deserve to be developed, they also affect academic achievement.

    One, the fundamental sense of rhythm is developed waaaaaaaay before the kid hits school. As is the fundamental sense of pitch.

    As for reading music, I don’t place a huge value on it. What I do place a huge value on is musical comprehension. Hearing and understanding the patterns, how they interact to become a larger whole. Learning to read western notation comes pretty quickly if it has patterns in the mind to relate to.

    Rather, the recognition of the patterns within the music itself.

    There’s another reason, as well: The show must go on. In the adult world, I trust people who are musicians or other performers to hit deadlines more consistently than those who aren’t. Deadlines have a fundamentally different meaning to us. A deadline is a theater full of people who I might embarrass myself in front of if I’m not prepared.