Milton native urges celebration of Music in Our Schools Month
If you want a good laugh, go hang out with a bunch of third-graders on a classroom video call.
I got to do that recently and talk with them about music as an Artist Ambassador for the Unified Voices for Music Education initiative. That’s just a fancy title for a pretty cool thing the Country Music Association Foundation does to help students and music teachers.
If you’ve been lucky enough to go to CMA Fest in Nashville, you know it’s a good time, but what you may not know is that all the artists play for free, so the CMA Foundation can turn around and invest proceeds to make sure that all students across the country have access to music education. With all of the changes in education that took place last year, the CMA Foundation has found new ways to help teachers and students as we all get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
I’d forgotten how young - and hilarious - third- graders are. Seeing their excitement and energy reminded me of myself at that age.
As a kid, I sang in the children’s choir at church and I loved it! By the time my elementary school teachers like Ms. Alexander and Ms. Sharp at H.O. Brittingham in Milton started using music in their classrooms, I was hooked. It was one of the only things that could hold my attention - but there was more.
Most people don’t know it, but I stuttered pretty badly until I was about 17 or 18, and music was one of the main tools that helped me get over that. I still remember how Ms. Alexander and Ms. Sharp would take time to talk to me and make me feel comfortable - and make me laugh! I’m still friends with both of them today.
You see, I never really felt confident speaking, but you can’t stutter when you sing. So my speech therapist started using music in our sessions. She’d have me sing the first two words of whatever I was trying to say and go from there.
This is something I hope and wish for all schools in our country. Helping kids find something they’re good at is so important, and for me it was music. It builds confidence and makes you feel like you have a place, instead of focusing on what you have trouble with.
Even if kids don’t grow up to be musicians, music is helpful in so many other ways. It calms you, motivates you, inspires you and gives you a way to express yourself.
You know, when we think about music in schools, band and chorus usually get most of the attention. While those are all very important, it was somewhere else that I really found myself: musical theater.
I participated in different theater productions in school, but it was “Footloose” that really sparked my interest to dive deeper into theater beyond high school.
Looking back, I was able to find a deeper sense of who I am both as a person and as an entertainer through musical theater. Even now, I’m still using skills I learned back then, like stage presence and blocking, but also things like confidence and collaboration.
I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for music education. Music is the one thing that doesn’t care how old you are, what you look like, where you’re from - music teaches you about life.
You learn acceptance, you learn confidence, you learn that we can look different and have different views, and yet still be united through music.
I am proud that the schools I grew up in saw the value of music and made it a priority to incorporate into my education. I recently learned that March is “Music In Our Schools Month.” It’s important that we celebrate music as part of a well-rounded education every day, but this month especially, because teachers and schools around the country use it as a chance to raise awareness of its importance, so we can make sure the next generation of kids has the same access and opportunities that I had growing up.
My grandma, Bettie Snead, was one of the people who always encouraged my musical dreams. I encourage you to be that person for the kids in your life.