With March being Music In Our Schools month, a month dedicated to supporting school music, now is a great time to recognize this importance and take a look at why schools need to have music education programs. As school districts continue to face increased demands with limited resources, they are often forced to eliminate music and arts programs first to keep up with costs. However, research continues to argue that arts education is equally as important as core curriculum in today’s schools and in students’ extracurricular activities.

As the Artistic Director for the Indianapolis Children’s Choir (ICC), one of the largest choral organizations of its kind, I continually see how children learn to express themselves and to be confident in their own abilities. Of the over 5,000 young people we serve, I see how singing gives them a strong sense of purpose, arming them with self-assurance skills that will be useful in their futures. Whether they are in our preschool program or our high school division, being in an ensemble brings these children out of their shells and helps them with social anxieties they may face. A music program like the ICC fosters essential abilities in children like teamwork, communication, responsibility and time management skills, that help create productive members of our community.

It is also a fact that children who study music show greater brain development and memory improvement within a year than children who receive no musical training, according to the Arete Music Academy. Additionally, the Journal for Research in Music Education tells us that children in music classes tend to have larger vocabularies and more advanced reading skills than their peers. Students in high-quality music programs also score higher on reading, spelling, English and mathematic tests, reinforcing the need for fine arts programming in our schools and community.

In our 21st century society we continually talk about students’ mental, emotional and physical well-being and our need to help offer better support. Involvement in music does just that, according to the International Journal of Music Education. Students in music gain an increased sense of empathy, strengthening their emotional sensitivity by reinforcing emotional intelligence. Music fosters happiness, relaxation, and stress and emotional release in young people, and it even helps with physical exercise, benefiting singers specifically by increasing their lung capacity and by reinforcing a strong posture.

The benefits from a quality music education are substantial, and the ICC strongly believes that supporting these programs in our schools is critical to our students’ success. The ICC works with local teachers, school districts, parent and teacher associations, the Indiana Department of Education, Indiana State School Music Association and others using ICC programming to advocate for and catalyze the preservation of music in schools.

One way we do this is through our Innovations Programs, which allows us to go to an area school and provide support free of charge. This support can take many forms, including organizing a workshop for a choir, or even a folk-dancing unit. We also host a Summer Symposium in June, which is a professional development course for teachers to learn the latest in music education trends. The ICC exists to help students, but it also supports the music teachers in our community in any way we can.

This March, during Music in our Schools Month, I encourage schools and extracurricular programs to continue to advocate for music education. The arts allow us to build our leaders for the future, who will think creatively and outside the box, and who will not recognize the differences in one another, but rather the commonalities and work to build bridges of understanding.

Joshua Pedde is artistic director of the Indianapolis Children's Choir.?