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    How Music Can Make Us Better People

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    We know that music provides so many benefits to the brain but we were touched by one story about how music can make us better people.

     

    A newspaper from Everett, Washington talks about 19-year-old Brandon Gelo and his school’s commitment to offering a percussion ensemble for special education students. By integrating band for students of all learning abilities, the high school’s culture has transformed.

     

    Gelo began his life with many challenges. He was born with fetal alcohol syndrome that doctors said would limit his ability to walk, talk and respond to people. Born from a mother who was a victim of domestic violence and who was homeless during pregnancy, Gelo was part of the foster system from birth. His adoptive parents believed he could surpass doctors’ expectations and encouraged him to flourish.

     

    By the time Gelo was a freshman in high school, he joined the school band. At first, he found the high school environment over-stimulating and would curl up in the fetal position to cope. However, band director Lesley Moffat worked with him until he could join the other players in the percussion ensemble. He now plays by ear the guitar, banjo and piano. He has since been hired as a teaching assistant for the school’s concert band.

     

    Since Gelo’s inclusion into the band, more than a dozen special ed students have joined the percussion ensemble.

     

    The Herald reporter wrote: “With more special and general education students making friends, Moffat said, she and other educators have noticed changes at school. Students are sitting together at lunch, exchanging high-fives in the hallways and helping each other. Brandan’s bandmates, for example, signal him when it’s time to play. ‘They’re not just being nice because he has special needs,’ Moffat said. ‘They’ve built genuine friendships.’”

     

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    Gender Disparity In High School Music Programs

    When you see your local high school choir or marching band perform look at the makeup of the young performers. Chances are you will find that girls outnumber boys, a gender imbalance that has been persistent for the past 30 years.

    Kenneth Elpus, an assistant professor of music education at the University of Maryland School of Music published a research report that looked at enrollment trends spanning from 1982 to 2009. He found that choirs are composed of 70 percent girls and 30 percent boys. In orchestra,  64 percent of the musicians are female while 36 percent are male. Band has the narrowest margin of gender imbalance with 56 percent females compared to 49 percent males.

    The benefits of music education have been well documented by researchers. Playing music is great exercise for the brain that helps students enhance their grammar skills, become better readers and improve test scores. The fact that boys are underrepresented in high school choir, band and orchestra might mean they are missing these crucial benefits. We hope something is done to fix this gender imbalance.

    Researcher Elpus notes that despite the lack of representation in high school arts, boys seem to have a leg up in the music careers.

    “The makeup of instrumental music students has been more heavily weighted towards females,” Elpus writes, “yet those students who pursue, or find the most success, in classical instrumental music or instrumental music education as a profession tend to be male.”

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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