Last evening, I attended the Dalat Fine Arts Festival at Penang PAC and was so impressed with how well our middle school students performed. The progress they make each year in learning their instrument and the concepts of music is always an encouragement to me and a testament to our music teachers and fine arts program. I have written a number of articles about the significance of fine arts as part of a high quality education in the past, but it is important enough that I want to take the time to do it again this year.
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 to just scratch the surface, however, I do want to mention just a few:
- Numerous research studies have shown that participation in the fine arts improves learning in all academic areas. Former band teacher at Dalat, Mr. Kerry Mahoney, often made the statement “it is not smart people who take band, but instead band makes smart people.” This is not just the ramblings of a music teacher, but this theory has been corroborated scientifically and documented in numerous ways. “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 comes through the fine arts. (Bryant, 2012)
- In the Burton Study of more than 2000 children, they found that those involved 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. They must be an important part of the school’s curriculum and considered a vital component of the student’s educational experience. Dalat believes whole-heartedly in this as seen in the middle school curriculum and the many different offerings available to our HS students (music theory, foundational art and onwards through AP art, drama and forensics, choir, band, jazz band, 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 tonight with the HS concerts at 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm, the drama performances on Saturday at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm, and the student’s visual art projects that are on display in the lobby. I would encourage you to come and see how “fine” our fine arts students at Dalat really are.