This evening I attended the Dalat Fine Arts Festival at Penang PAC and am still amazed at how gifted our students are. The student artwork on display had me shaking my head in wonder and with a sense that many of the pieces could actually be in an art gallery. After that I listened to the middle school students fill the concert hall with music that rivaled many adult bands I have heard.

An education in the arts (performance and visual) is a crucial part of the development and growth of each child. The study of the arts is integral to our society and culture as it is art that connects deeply with what makes us human and helps to complete us as people.

There is a universal need for words, music, dance, and visual art to give expression to the innate urgings of the human spirit (Eisner, 1987). The benefits of a fine arts education are so numerous that it would take many pages just scratch the surface, however, I do want to mention a few:

  • Study after scientific study has shown that participation in the fine arts improves learning in all academic areas. Mr. Mahoney often makes the statement “It is not smart people that take band but that band makes smart people.” This is not just the ramblings of a music teacher :-) but has been corroborated scientifically and documented in numerous ways. In a study conducted by Judith Burton, Columbia University, research provided evidence that subjects such as mathematics, science, and language require complex cognitive and creative capacities “typical of arts learning” (Burton, Horowitz, & Abeles, 1999). “The arts enhance the process of learning. The systems they nourish…are, in fact, the driving forces behind all other learning” (Jensen, 2001).
  • Non-academic” benefits like self-esteem, motivation, aesthetic awareness, cultural exposure, creativity, improved emotional expression, fostering a love for learning, development of self-discipline, as well as social harmony and appreciation of diversity (Bryant, 2012) are by-products of studying the arts.
  • The Burton study of more than 2,000 children found that those in the arts curriculum were far superior in creative thinking, self-concept, problem-solving, self-expression, risk-taking, and cooperation than those who were not (Burton et al., 1999).

The arts cannot be learned through random or sporadic involvement and must be an important part of the school’s curriculum and considered a vital component of the educational experience. Dalat believes wholeheartedly in this as seen in the middle school curriculum and the many different offerings available to our high school students (music theory, foundational art through AP art, drama and forensics, choir, band, jazz band, music history classes, etc.).

The Fine Arts Festival is a chance for us as a community to see just how impressive our students are and the positive impact art is having on their lives. The festival continues Friday night with the HS concert (4 and 7 p.m.) and the drama performances on Saturday (3 and 8 p.m.). If you have not gotten tickets already, try to come, and I promise you too will be amazed.

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Dalat Director

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people to make a positive impact on their world, walk with integrity, and follow Christ. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Dalat Director since 2006.

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