Music Education: Lens For Life (Blogathon #3)

This guest blog entry was written by Damien Riley. It’s wonderful and I hope you enjoy it.

Music Education: Lens for Life

I was asked by Jessica the Rock Chick to write a “Guest Blog” post on the topic of “Music and Education: what it means to you.” I was very flattered by the request and happy to do it. This was especially true for me as a teacher and a musician heavily influenced by music at a young age. What follows is my guest blog post for Life is Rantastic:

I was lucky enough to have music education in my elementary school years (1974-1980). I recall fondly the choir, the guitar classes, the violin, recitals, and even the recorder . . . all in a publicly funded school! As a teacher now in 2007, I can attest that the public school dollars are no longer spent on such things. School districts expend ridiculous amounts money to buy test prep, assessment computer systems, standardized practice tests, teacher training on how to teach the academic standards, and many other strictly academic “tools.” Are they missing a shortcut to proficiency? All these academic standard items have been emphasized in American schools at the expense of the arts and the social aspects of education such as music, drawing, and the more tacit, or unspoken, aspects of citizenship. Music education teaches all these things and it’s very inexpensive to implement.


Music taught me much in elementary school about those latter items. It also gave me a great outlet for my energy (which for me in those years was quite rambunctious). I learned to wait until the conductor said “begin.” I learned how to recover from a mistake gracefully. I learned that you must be in tune to sound good. I learned that spatial combinations of notes make beautiful chords on a guitar, piano, recorder, or other instrument. Learning these things sent me on my way toward writing my own songs later and figuring out chords on my guitar up to now where I play music a local bars and coffee houses to audiences who also love music. Spatial recognition in music developed as a force that would later drive my freelance writing, university post-graduate work, my thesis, teaching plans, and other creative aspects of my fortunate life. I learned the rules of music are characteristic of the rules of the seasons, gravity, relationships, and any deconstructable system of signifiers in this universe. I started through my teens and beyond to look for the “spatial patterns” in life and I tried to master them. I was successful at several along the way . . . one by one as I tried to make sense of my youth.

Music made me more aware of patterns in math, in paragraphs, in topic sentences, conclusions, times tables, division, fractions, square roots, history, science . . . every discipline taught in school. And when I get on stage now at 38 and belt out a Neil Young song (for example) it’s the result of a knowledge of patterns very closely resembling math and all the other things I mentioned. I can tell you that people respond to the patterns of rock n roll, but that’s another post for my own site sometime!

By depriving kids of music in public schools we are giving them a “directive” to find their own way and to make sense of academics, as well as everything else in the human condition. We give them no rhyme, reason, or rhythm other than the rhythm of a test question and we tell them if they get the test right, they will get a candy -or- extra recess. (kind of like giving a good horse a sugar cube to lick) It will work for some, it will not work for all. AND, even for those it does work for, an amazing opportunity for understanding is denied. The lens of music education helps kids see life as a matrix or pattern. When all the outmoded tests and theories get thrown out on the last day of school, The kids take that lens with them into academia and into life for 80 years with luck or even less.

Help support the VH1 Save The Music Foundation by clicking here!

UP NEXT: Q & A #2!


  1. Amy The Black said

    Great thoughts. There is yet another aspect to losing music education in the schools: current students who do not learn about music turn into teachers who do not know about music. There still is hope: Some college programs that teach future primary school teachers still require a basic music course. Let’s just hope that colleges and universities don’t decide to drop music from the core curriculum.

  2. The Rock Chick said

    Excellent point! I was thinking about when I was in elementary school and I remember having a piano in every classroom and every one of my teachers knew how to play, to varying degrees. I imagine that must have been some sort of requirement at the time.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!


  3. MissMeliss said

    Brilliant post.
    You have the coolest friends and blogfriends.

  4. The Rock Chick said

    I agree! I thought this post was fabulous!

    I really do have the coolest friends and blogfriends 🙂 you included!!!


  5. Damien Riley said

    @ Amy the Black: Yes you are right. Ignorance begets more ignorance. The neat thing about music is that anybody can earn the basic rhythms and such. Public school should herald it and I thank you for publicly agreeing!

    @Jessica: Thanks so much for posting my article. it’s something I feel truly passionate about. I am glad your audience got a chance to see how I feel on the subject and raised their awareness. Thanks for commenting on the comments here 🙂 I wanted to 2 hours ago but my internet went down . . . perfect timing huh? Good luck with all this. You are the Rock Chick!

  6. knicksgrl0917 said

    hey! i’m going to cali this weekend and won’t be back until september… here is the website i was talking about where i made extra summer cash. Later! the website is here

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