In recent years the STEM educational initiative – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – has gradually evolved into STEAM, as both educators and employers have gained a greater appreciation for the importance of arts education (the A in STEAM) in an innovation-driven economy. While it has long been held that early exposure to the arts, in particular music, contributes to the development of a well-rounded character, recent research and practical application both quantifies these benefits and identifies them as essential for developing marketable skills.
Since 1945 San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory (SDYS) has offered thousands of student musicians the opportunity to study and perform classical repertoire. SDYS’ programs include chamber music, soloist competitions, group lessons, theory classes, mentor programs, and more, and have grown from one advanced orchestra of 60 students to over 600 participating in 12 orchestral and wind ensembles at various levels of proficiency. While many participants have gone on to leading conservatories and professional careers in music, SDSY sees its mission in the larger context of broadening cultural horizons, embracing diversity, and enriching the community. To this end, the Youth Symphony had partnered with area schools to provide both in-class and supplemental music education. This initiative has yielded measurable results, including:
• Improved attendance
• Improved academic performance, particularly in language and reading skills
• Better performance on standardized tests
• Increased parental involvement in their student’s education
Additionally, students themselves report a greater sense of discipline, purpose, organization, belonging, and self-worth, all of which translates into a young person better equipped to tackle higher education and the marketplace.
SDYS also supports statistical research through a partnership with the Center for Human Development at UC San Diego and participation in the Center’s SIMPHONY study. The goal of SIMPHONY is to explore how musical training influences a child’s brain and the development of skills like language and concentration. The results may then be used to bolster the case for music education and to refine teaching methods, not just in San Diego but nationwide.
“High Notes: The Case for Music Education” provides an overview of a few of SDYS’ activities, including their Community Opus project, the SIMPHONY study, and their in-school activities using the Chula Vista Elementary School District as a representative sample.