Apr 302015
 

 

Imagine a world with no music. Imagine a world with no more movie soundtracks, or top forty radio stations; no more hip hop or rock n’ roll. That would make the world dull and mostly silent. Whether the human race realizes it or not, music is a large part of everyday life. Music plays almost everywhere-the mall, the grocery store, the local diner. All of the music that teenagers listen to in their cars and adults nostalgically bob heads to while working, whether it be rap, country, or metal core, comes from the same background and the same basis-Classical, Baroque, and Romantic period music. All of the techniques that composers from these eras used can be seen in all music! Chord progressions used by J.S. Bach and songs in major and minor keys that were established well before any person today was alive. While it may be true that music today is drastically different than anything heard in medieval times or the romantic Baroque, or classical eras, the idea is still the same-to entertain. “So what?” my readers may be asking themselves. “Why does this matter to me?” That’s an important question, one that needs to be addressed. Music is decaying, although it might not seem like it to someone who listens to the radio all the time, with pop stars spitting out one platinum hit right after another. However, it’s true-music is dying, starting in schools. A majority of the pop stars that are doing world tours now-a-days started in their middle and high school band or choral programs (Cavalier, 2005,1). That is truly amazing and a fantastic ploy to keep music education programs afloat! Maybe not so much. Funding for schools state-wide in Colorado dropped nearly $50 million from the 2011-12 school year to the 2012-13 school year (Cuts, 2011, 1). What programs took the brunt of those cuts? The performing arts. Music programs across the country are being under-funded, under-staffed, and shut down entirely. However, it doesn’t have to be that way! Money is tight in education right now, especially with the $100 billion set aside for education from the ARRA (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act) starting to run dry (Rentner, 2012,1). More money needs to be put towards fine arts programs, and music programs in particular, in middle and high schools across the nation.

Music education has several positive influences in school aged children. Research has proved that children involved in instrumental and choral school music programs have better problem solving skills. Not only this, music education can teach certain social and developmental skills in kids with disabilities (Darrow, 2014, 1). These kids, who may not get the kind of motor skill development taken from instrumental music, find several benefits to being in a school music ensemble. As Darrow said “Various music interventions have been cited frequently as effective in promoting self-esteem.” (2014, 1)-meaning that the students with disabilities have found that their self-esteem has gone up with playing music. Also “Students with disabilities are often passive or content to agree or comply with others” but music education and music educators can help these children become more assertive by having “the students express their desire to play a certain instrument, perform a certain piece, or to play in one group and not another” (Darrow, 2014, 1). As well as helping to develop social skills and raising self-esteem in children with disabilities, I’ve found through personal experience that children in middle and high school music programs are some of the most accepting adolescents. Throughout high school, angst is usually high and most teenagers are worried about physical appearances and who to hang out with to look the most “cool” or “popular”. However, throughout my entire middle and high school career and spending my time with different people and different social groups, it has become apparent to me that the band and choral students are the ones who aren’t worried about such things. That kind of accepting environment is very important to a child’s growth, especially one with disabilities who may not think as fast or understand things as quickly as other students. If music education programs in middle and high schools die out, these students with disabilities may no longer have anywhere to go to develop and improve their learning skills and function.

A misconception about music education that many students and music educators believe is that music can improve standardized test scores. While it’s true that music education and learning how to play an instrument can improve patience and the ability to think through problems in young adults, there is actually no documented correlation between standardized test scores, such as the scholastic aptitude test (SAT), and being involved in a music program (Elpus, 2013, 1). However, this research does not mean that playing in music programs has no benefit to the academics. In fact, music programs in middle and high schools are “imperative to creating a society with creative, disciplined students who can communicate effectively and work together.”(Slaton, 2012, 1). These programs also go about creating more well rounded and educated children as “no education can be complete without the arts and music playing a central role.”(More Funding, 2014, 1) Music education is one of the most important arts in middle and high schools across America. I have been involved in music for eight years now and feel it has made me better at several other subjects that I once struggled in, such as math. Like me, other students can find a correlation between music and the academic subjects that they may be struggling in. The correlation between subjects will better help these students understand the subject, and thus improve performance in that subject area.

Some may argue that there are better areas of public education to spend this money on. The truth is that with these budget cutbacks sweeping the country, there are several areas lacking sufficient funding. Take, for example, a general school lunch in the United States. These school lunches are not necessarily the most nutritious and they almost always cost more money than they should, especially with so many students that have to be on a free or reduced lunch program. However, while this is a very important issue in schools nationwide, the money would be better spent to keep music programs functioning in all middle and high schools. Band and choir are very important to a child’s development, and because of free and reduced lunch programs, it is easier for all children to get a lunch, if nothing else. Some children, however, due to lack of funding, may never get the chance to play in a middle or high school band or sing in choir beyond elementary school music class.

No Child Left Behind, an act signed into law but George Bush in 2002, is designed to raise the overall literacy of the United States (Diorio, 2008,1), but it has also caused a very large rift to open in arts and music programs across the country. The act has intended to improve the literacy in the nation by providing programs and putting measures into place to help students who may be failing or close to failing certain classes. As well as putting these measures into place, the No Child Left Behind Act has put certain standards on the core subjects such as Science, Math, English, and Social Studies. While achieving it’s intended goal in raising the United States literacy, it has put more of an emphasis on academics and thus lessened the emphasis on the arts. As Terrence E. Young stated “No Child Left Behind legislation means increasing academic time for core subjects, which translates into cutting time for arts education.” The emphasis on the academic subjects has both a positive and negative outcome. While the general literacy of the country has gone up, benefits that a student may receive from an emphasis on music programs have been undermined. Thus, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is extremely beneficial to academic programs, but has a negative impact on the arts programs across the United States.

Music education programs can also keep students out of legal trouble. These programs can give children and young adults something to focus on other than doing things that may get them in trouble. For example, instead of spending free time to go out and vandalize, or other illegal acts such as underage smoking or drinking, students have music to focus on by practicing their instruments and music. By doing this, music education can subsequently cause the crime rate in the United States to decrease substantially every year. Not only that, playing an instrument in a middle or high school band program can also give students an output when angry or frustrated, as well as give them a comfortable place to stay and familiar people to be around when in times of stress or unrest. From personal experience, a new family is created when one becomes involved in music. The new ‘family’ may be easier to talk to when something goes wrong in a home life, as well as a safe and accepting place to be when children feel like they have nowhere left to turn. I have gone to my music family several times with concerns or issues that I felt I couldn’t talk to with my biological family, as have other students that I have been in a music program with. The sense of comradery instilled by music programs has helped several students to stay out of trouble in school, and has also helped turn some students’ lives completely around.

Music education is beneficial not only to individual students but to society as a whole. As John Collins states in his article “Music Education is a Viable Investment” (1996) “Without structured music education, we have a generation of students with headphones on, tuning out the world and tuning in as passive listeners, perhaps because they haven’t had the opportunity to learn how to play music with their peers.”(1) The outcome of this inability to listen, in turn, has a negative impact on society in the United States. The disconnect causes the growing generation to be passive listeners instead of active voices, or those who don’t even listen at all, instead tuning out the world as Collins has said. The generation that is growing up like this will more than likely turn the United States into a barely functioning society of people who don’t know how to listen to others. Playing in a middle and high school band also creates an environment where students are required to learn how to work together smoothly. If the musicians cannot work well together, the music will not sound good and therefore will be a failure. Likewise in a business place, if the employees cannot cooperate with one another, the company is likely to fail. Therefore, playing music in a middle and high school band can develop skills that students will use for the rest of their lives.

Many foundations and organizations are advocating for the funding of music education continued through middle and high school, such as the Grammy Foundation. As Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Grammy Foundation, stated, “it has always been my belief that music and music education have a significant impact on a child’s life — academically, socially, culturally and spiritually,” (Mitchell, 2013, 1). The Foundation is going about funding their support by announcing the first ever Music Educators Award. The award recognizes music educators for their hard work and dedication and allows the winner to go to the Grammys. The winner also wins a $10,000 honorarium, and his/her school will receive a grant of the same value and the other nine finalists’ schools will receive a &1,000 grant for their music programs(Mitchell, 2013, 1). The support from the Grammy Foundation shows that large organizations are involved in making sure that America’s students receive all of the schooling that is deserved, including education in the liberal and performing arts areas. Parents and other citizens of the nation should see these acts of support of music education for what it is-a defense of a dying education that impacts the country in a large way. People seem to write off music programs and arts programs, considering these not nearly as important as the core subjects, or even scholastic sports teams. Imagine if a science program or an English program had taken large hits to the budget like music programs have across the country. Parents would be enraged, sending nasty letters and leaving rude telephone messages about the state of their child’s education. So why is it that when the same thing happens to music programs, most parents won’t do anything to help? Is it because music is not seen as important to these parents, or to their children? In many schools, as I’ve witnessed, sports programs are considered to be some of the most important extracurricular activities because these programs teach teamwork and give the students the ability to work together towards a larger goal. However, music does that very same thing. While it is true that musicians may not show a sense of comradery  on a court or field, sitting up on that stage with fellow musicians ignites a sense of teamwork and mutual understanding between students. If sports programs and music programs are basically teaching students the same lessons, albeit in very different ways, why is one seen as more important or ‘cooler’ than the other? Why are athletes considered a school’s top priority when musicians are working just as hard towards a goal that’s just as far away? The superiority that sports programs are given over music programs are exactly the reason why music programs are scrambling for funds, and exactly why they should be taken into consideration when looking at a school’s budget.

Music educators have a big responsibility. Teaching music in a middle or high school is not like teaching any other subject because the students who play music together are much closer than students in other, core subjects. As stated before, playing music together creates a sense of family and comradery. This family must be looked after and held together almost solely by the teacher. Music educators have to be not only a teacher, but a role model, a friend, and a guardian as well. Music programs give students a place to make friends, but they also give students a place to find a mentor and a role model to look up to. My band director in high school heard many of my personal problems, let me gossip to him about who was teasing me in high school, and gave me life advice that I will remember as I grow and mature into my own person and music educator. Taking funds away from music education is not just taking away the joy of making music and playing together, but is also taking away a role model and parent like figure, a figure that some students may not have at home.

Playing music is not just a past time. What started out as just a hobby turns into a full commitment, with hours of practicing a day and little to no sleep as a show or concert draws closer and closer. As for myself and several other people I know, it can transform from a small interest into a whole life and career. I am currently going to school for Music Education, which is a career path that I, and many others like me, have chosen. Choosing this path was an easy decision to make and took a split second to finalize. Myself and other did not choose this because of a mild interest in music. Music educators and students have chosen this path because music has had such an impact on certain students’ lives that these students feel that they cannot let music go. These are students who are active voices and active listeners, who can solve problems at what seems like the speed of light, with open arms who accept anyone and everyone. These are adults who are willing to put all of their time into children that aren’t related to them in any way. For whatever reason, all music educators have found some sort of solace in music and intend to share that with students alike. Some may be lost, some may know exactly where they are going, and some may be drifting. Music captures them all. To school athletes, principals, core subject teachers, and non-music parents, it’s just another class-just another easy A to earn. However, to these students who have invested all of their time and much of their money into this program and who fundraise just to be able to afford used instruments from a pawn shop, it is everything. Music is what they wake up in the morning for, and what they look forward to when they fall asleep. Band isn’t just a class or a hobby to pass time. Choosing music is choosing a lifestyle.

Apr 272015
 

I found a few more resources that I think are helpful on the situation!!

http://thoughtcatalog.com/brandie-wagers/2014/06/13-things-people-with-anxiety-never-want-to-hear/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/16/what-to-say-anxiety_n_5978918.html

http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/factsheet/generalized-anxiety-disorder#resources

http://hellogiggles.com/panic-disorders//#read

http://www.sandiegotraumatherapy.com/emdr-articles/terrell-panic-disorder.htm

Apr 242015
 

It can be hard to come to terms with a mental disorder that you may be facing. This is certainly true for me! Several weeks ago, I was diagnosed by my therapist with GAD, otherwise known as General Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Disorder on top of that. There were several steps leading up to this diagnosis. It started with a panic attack on such an extreme level that it sent me to the ER. While I was there, I decided it was time to ask for help. The ER nurses and doctor were very kind, referring me to a therapist here in Pueblo for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.  Since she has diagnosed me and put me on a small dosage of Prozac, which I take daily to help manage anxiety, I have done a lot of research about these conditions. What I found was startling.

First, I want to begin by defining what I am talking about in this post. GAD can be defined as “a condition characterized by 6 or more months of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience”, and Panic Disorder can be defined as “a psychiatric disorder in which debilitating anxiety and fear arise frequently and without reasonable cause” and is often accompanied with panic attacks that can, from personal experience, incapacitate one for hours on end. In the United States, nearly 40 million adults above 18 are affected by some sort of anxiety disorder. Of those 40 million, 6.8 million are affected by GAD and 6 million are affected by Panic Disorder. Now that you have some background knowledge, let’s get to the real stuff. Also, a short disclaimer, this is only how my anxiety and panic disorders affect me. It is different for everyone, and that is important to keep in mind.

It’s important to remember that, while it may not seem like it on the outside, anxiety disorders are very real, and very physical. It starts in the stomach, like a deep pit has opened in the middle of your diaphragm. There’s a pang every time you try to inhale, and it feels like someone is holding your lungs tightly, making it impossible for them to inflate. Now, as you’re trying to breathe, you start to hyperventilate because it’s impossible for you to get any oxygen and you’re feeling like you might pass out or stop breathing. Your throat swells and closes up, maybe you start to tremble or shake, and your vision becomes spotted and blurry. You stay like this for minutes, maybe even hours, until you can calm yourself down, or somebody has called 911 and they have given you a tranquilizer to calm you down.

I’ve just taken you through a panic attack. I have had two major panic attacks since I was diagnosed. One was a few days ago, over the weekend, because of something very small. I felt a pain in my side, and while it did not hurt much, it persisted for several minutes. It was at this point that I started to spiral into a panic attack. I was lucky that I was staying the night at a friends house with a few of our other friends and one of them happened to be a trained EMT; he was able to calm me down and there was no incident involving the hospital. The second time was just a few days ago because of a grade in one of my classes, and I was luckily able to call someone to help me, and that also ended with no hospital visit.

Something that I’ve seen quite a bit in my reading and researching is that people don’t seem to understand the difference between having anxiety and having an anxiety disorder. Everybody feels anxiety at some point in their lives. You’ve got a big test coming up, or you’re asking your dream girl/boy out. Sure, everyone gets anxious. I challenge you right now. Think of a time when you felt anxious. Remember how it felt physically. Whether it made you tense up, or weak in the knees, whether you clenched your jaw or bit your lip. Remember that feeling in your stomach that wouldn’t go away until you had been reassured. Now imagine that feeling every single day. Imagine that feeling never going away, not even when you were sleeping. This is what it feels like to have an anxiety disorder.

There are several things that you can do if you suspect that you or a loved one may have GAD or Panic Disorder. First, sit them down and talk to them about it. Ask them if they have a funny feeling in their gut all day, or if they’re feeling nervous or finicky.  The next step is to ask for help. This may take years. Most adults who have been diagnosed with GAD or Panic Disorder had the symptoms for upwards of 25 years before opening up and asking for help. I’ve felt this way for several years, since I was at least in seventh grade, and have battled minor depression along side it and have only just this year asked for help with it. Although it was hard to open up to those close to me about it, and even harder for me to admit that, although I am a very independent individual, I couldn’t handle this alone, it was the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long time.

Another thing to keep in mind are a few things that people with GAD and Panic Disorder don’t want to hear.

1. “Just calm down.”

Okay…sure, let me do that. Oh wait…I WOULD IF I COULD.

2. “It’s all in your head.”

Yes, that’s why it’s called a mental disorder. Thank you for that.

3. “Get over it.”

Please don’t ever tell me to get over something that has made my anxiety spike. Something that is a minor embarrassment to you is probably something that I think about for days on end.

4. “Don’t even worry about it.”

Stop. Just stop. It’s not like I chose to freak out over this.

 

Anxiety disorders aren’t something that we can control. The most you can do is take some medication for it, go to therapy regularly, and avoid your triggers and stressers. I know that, whenever I start to feel like I might have a panic attack, it’s important for me to go to people who understand my situation and can help me get through it. My hope in writing this is to educate a few more people, to expand my circle of those that I can go to when I start to feel anxious. Below, I’ve linked a few YouTube videos that I found interesting or important. It would mean a lot to me if you would watch them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 062015
 

I never wish that my life was different
Or that I’d grown up any way
Other than the way that I did

And I know that my parents both love
And support me
I know that they are proud of me
Just like other kids parents are

And the only difference
Is that their pride
Stretches through most of the country

But yet to know
The disappointment of one
Is more than a bump in the road
It is like a stop sign
Attached to a large swinging hammer

And to get through it
One must carefully duck and dodge
And when the inevitable hit comes
It is like the air has been sucked
Straight from your lungs

So I am sorry
That I have disappointed you not once
But twice on the same subject
And though I never wish my life
Was any different

Some days
I wish you were just a few thousand
Miles
Closer

Mar 062015
 

Freaking stop. Stop posting your mistakes all over Facebook. Grow up and fix them like a mature adult. Stop whining. Stop complaining. Everyone’s got problems. Literally everyone on this entire planet makes mistakes. Instead of posting your obscure statuses about whatever you might have just screwed up or whoever you might have pissed off, get off the internet and work it out like every other freaking person. We get you want to be a special snowflake and you want people to feel bad for you, but there’s a limit and all I see scrolling down my news feed are these stupid statuses like “Oh I’m such a screw up” or “oops I made a mistake.” Congrats, do you want a pat on the back? An ice cream cone maybe? Someone to hug you and tell you everything is going to be okay? Too bad. Why don’t we act our age? If you screw something up, own up to it, talk it out, then move on. If you make someone mad, so what? Shit happens dude. Get over it. Stop shoving your whiney insecurities onto other people. Facebook is not your diary.

Dec 172014
 

Just a few things I feel I need to remind myself every day, in no particular order.

1. Smile, even if you feel like breaking. It’ll help you feel better, I promise.

2. Even if it feels like the end of the world now, it really isn’t. Smile, laugh, and brush it off.

3. Seriously, everybody makes mistakes. Let it go.

4. Sometimes, it’s okay to bend the rules, if there’s a really good reason behind it.

5. It’s definitely okay to pull all-nighters every once in a while. You don’t always have to be on a strict schedule.

6. Live like you’re young, and dance like nobody is watching. This is cliche, but it’s always better to have more fun than it is to worry about how others may perceive your actions.

7. If it’s meant to be, it will be.

8. Don’t stress so much, you’ll only wear yourself down and make the people around you worry and feel bad.

9. Please don’t just think of yourself. Please. There are other people in your life. Consider them and their feelings.

10. DON’T GOSSIP OR TALK SMACK. Guaranteed, you will always feel bad about it, and you spend a lot of time worrying about if they’ll find out what you said, or if they overheard you. Just don’t. It saves you and them a lot of pain.

11. Forgive. Like I said, everybody makes mistakes, and it’s your job to understand that.

12. Be kind, and show compassion, but don’t let yourself get taken advantage of. Know the difference between kindness and usefulness.

13. Sometimes, you need to shut up. What you have to say is not always as important as you think it is. Please know when others want you to stop talking, even if they won’t say it to you.

14. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. It’s really that simple.

15. Spend a whole day in bed. It’s healing.

16. Watch whatever you want to, and don’t let people judge you. If you really enjoy that Korean sitcom, then you watch that Korean sitcom, regardless of how much your friends may poke fun at you.

17. Seriously don’t judge people by their appearances. We’re all human.

18. Don’t hate for no reason. If you don’t like someone “just because”, please re-evaluate.

19. Treat others how you want to be treated. Remember when this was the golden rule? Yeah, that’s still valid.

20. Everybody has a story, and everybody has a struggle. Find compassion for all of them.

21. Just listen. Seriously, if you just listen to someone, you can learn so much about them and yourself. Sometimes, people don’t need you to talk. Sometimes they just need you to listen.