8 years ago

Volume 19 Issue 3 - November 2013

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Beat by Beat |

Beat by Beat | BandstandMusic EducationNo ‘Frill’J A C K M a c Q U A R R I ESome months ago there was quite a fuss in the news over a decisionby the Toronto District School Board to do away with theitinerant music teachers, as a cost-cutting measure. These itinerantteachers normally teach only music and travel between anassigned number of schools. The effect would have been to eliminatemost music education at the elementary school level. Proponentsof this action expressed the opinion that music education was a frillwhich could readily be eliminated in a time ofbudget constraint. Those on the pro-music sideargued that music was an integral part of ourlives, and that early music education had a positiverole to play in the development of manyskills in later life. After considerable debate, theboard arrived at a compromise, and the itinerantteachers are back in their classrooms this year.Whether this decision is merely a stay of executionor a more permanent solution remainsto be seen.Personally I attended an excellent secondaryschool with very high academic standards, butwith absolutely no formal music program. Onthe other hand, in my formative years I had thegood fortune to have lived in a home filled withCondoleeza There were regular rehearsals in our living room and the radioalways delivered symphony concerts and opera. I have lived a life filledwith music. So this current debate on the merits of music educationcalled out to me to try to get some factual information.As luck would have it there was a recent article — “Is Music the Keyto Success?” — by Joanne Lipman, which I read in the October 12,2013 New York Times. In this article Lipman cites many prominentfigures in diverse fields who were high achievers in music. Examples:Condoleezza Rice trained to be a concert pianist. Alan Greenspan,former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, was a professionalclarinet and saxophone player. The hedge fund billionaire BruceKovner is a pianist who took classes at Juilliard.Another writer, Anna Parini, asked the question: “What is it aboutserious music training that seems to correlate with outsize successin other fields?” It has been generally accepted in academic circlesfor some time that mathematical skills are considerably enhanced byproficiency in music. Parini goes further, however, stating that themusic/success correlation extends beyond the math-music connection.Many high achievers told her that music opened up many pathwaysto creative thinking: qualities such as collaboration, the abilityto listen, ways of thinking that weave together disparate ideas, andthe power to focus on the present and the future simultaneously.Advertising executive Steve Hayden credits his background as a cellistfor his famous work in producing commercials for Apple computers,stating that his cello performance background helps him work collaborativelyand that ensemble playing trains you, quite literally, to playwell with others, to know when to solo and when to follow.These studies got me thinking of famous musicians who also madetheir mark in other fields. That took me back to my days in the navywhen I appeared before my Officer Selection Board. The first questionthat I was asked by the officer in charge of the board: “You saythat one of your major interests is music.” “Yes sir.” “Name a famouscomposer who was also a naval officer.” My immediate reply: “NikolaiRimsky-Korsakov.” I passed; Rimsky-Korsakov had been an officer inthe Imperial Russian Navy. Then there was the famous pianist IgnacyJan Paderewski, the first prime minister of Poland. Another Russiancomposer, Alexander Borodin, was a physician and professor ofchemistry. Former British prime minister Edward Heath maintainedan interest in orchestral music as an organist and conductor. Heathdirected the London Symphony Orchestra, notably at a gala concert atthe Royal Festival Hall in 1971. He also conducted the Royal LiverpoolPhilharmonic and the English Chamber Orchestra, as well as orchestrasin Germany and the United States. He also wrote a book calledThe Joy of Christmas: A Collection of Carols, published in 1978 byOxford University Press.When I first started collecting LP records, some of my favouriterecordings were by the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under thedirection of its founding director Ernest Ansermet. Originally he wasa mathematics professor, teaching at the University of Lausanne, butmusic took over most of his life. Ansermet was one of the first in thefield of classical music to take jazz seriously, and in 1919 he wrote anarticle praising jazz saxophonist Sidney Bechet.Closer to home, former Canadian Governor General Ray Hnatyshynwas an accomplished bass clarinetist. Internationally renownedCanadian soprano IsabelBayrakdarian, noted as muchfor her stage presence as for hermusicality, just happens to havean honours degree in BiomedicalEngineering.There certainly is considerableanecdotal evidence to support thebelief that proficiency in musicplays a role in the development ofmany other cognitive skills, butthe evidence goes way beyond theanecdotal. I know of at least threeongoing university research effortsclosely related to this subject. Oneresearcher at McMaster Universityhas been investigating a broad spectrum of society to investigate therole music plays in people’s lives. Another research project at RyersonUniversity is examining differences in people with musical expertisewhen it comes to auditory versus visual selective attention. Thethird, at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences isthe most interesting to me in terms of making a case for the value ofearly musical training. Stefanie Hutka, a PhD student at the RotmanInstitute (and a violinist) provided this information.“Our NeuroEducation Across the Lifespan laboratory is directlytargeting an increase in awareness and accessibility of music training.On the awareness side, we are heavily involved in public outreachsuch as the Brain Power conference, which presents accessibleCathedral BluffsSYMPHONY ORCHESTRANorman ReintammArtistic Director/Principal ConductorSaturday Nov. 9 at 8 pmwith internationally-acclaimed pianistARTHUR OZOLINSRACHMANINOVPiano Concerto no. 3 in D minorBEETHOVEN Symphony no. 8P.C. Ho Theatre 5183 Sheppard Avenue East, ScarboroughRegular adult, st/sr (under 12 free) | Premium adult, st/sr (under 12 free)The Ontario Trillium Foundation is an agencyof the Government of | 416.879.556630 | Novemberr 1 – December 7, 2013

information about neuroscience findings on music to scientists,educators, and parents. On the accessibility side, we have studiessupporting the benefits of music, including via short-term training onsoftware, which have been published in top scientific journals. In one2011 study, school-aged children used music training software calledSmarter Kids, developed by our lead scientist, Dr. Sylvain Moreno.After only 20 days of training, improvements on measures of verbalintelligence were observed. We are currently extending this theme ofaccessibility, creating software using music to train the aging brain,with very positive preliminary data.”Her summary of the project’s findings to date?: “Everyone canbenefit from music training. A wealth of empirical, neuroscientificevidence supports the positive influence of music training onnumerous non-musical brain functions, such as language, readingand attention. Such benefits are seen in children, and continue acrossthe lifespan into older adulthood. Despite this evidence, music educationis still often seen as a supplemental and expensive subject inschools, and often is the target of budget cuts. Increasing awarenessof the real-world benefits associated with learning music, as well asmaking music training more accessible, are critical steps towardssupporting the inclusion of this important subject in curricula.”As formal Liberal Leader Bob Rae (who has himself been knownto lead a rousing sing-song from the piano) is reported to have statedsome months ago in a debate on financing culture: “Culture is not aluxury.” Couldn’t have said it better myself!DEFINITION DEPARTMENTThis month’s lesser known musical term is basso continuo: Whenmusicians are still fishing long after the legal season has ended.We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments andhas performed in many community ensembles. He canbe contacted at November 1 – December 7, 2013 | 31

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