OKLAHOMA CITY – Tulsa area sixth-graders are enthusiastic about their school orchestra programs. As one student cellist puts it “I really love it. Hearing the sound when all the parts come together and I’m right in the middle of it gives me chills.“ But across the state, in the panhandle, a student who wants to be part of an orchestra isn’t likely to have the chance. One student laments, “I wish I lived in a different area where I’d have the chance to play music.” These are comments made by Oklahoma school children who took part in a comprehensive survey on music education in the state.
A report released today shows that student access to music in Oklahoma public schools is widespread, but the types and number of courses varies widely from region to region and district to district. Oklahoma state school superintendant, Sandy Garrett commented, “Music is part of our core curriculum and should be available to every student. This report will help us look at ways to provide more student access to a wider variety of music courses.”
The report, entitled “Scratching the Surface: What We Know – and Don’t Know – About Music Education in Oklahoma,” is a preliminary review of music education in Oklahoma as it exists today. The report, commissioned by the Kirkpatrick Foundation, studies data on course availability in individual schools and compares schools based on location, size, wealth indicators and region. The study is primarily concerned with determining access to certain courses and does not examine participation levels.
Music is a Core Subject
There is a large body of research that supports the theory that music and arts are fundamental components of a complete education. Long-term studies have shown that children who have access to music training do better in school and in life. Oklahoman Cliff Hudson, CEO and founder of the Sonic restaurant chain put it this way: “I took math in school, but I’m not a mathematician. I took history in school, but I’m not a historian. Like these other subjects, music helped me understand things and gave me skills that I use every day. There’s no better way to learn how to work with others and be part of a team moving towards a goal than to play music in a school band or orchestra. Everything you need to know is right there.”
Impact Beyond School
Music’s role in developing creative thinking takes on new importance when the goals of the Creative Oklahoma are considered. Susan McCalmont, President of the Kirkpatrick Foundation explains, “We see a bright future for Oklahoma in the knowledge economy and the role of creative arts in the success of our state. Music and arts training empowers students to be competitive at a time when creativity and innovation are the main drivers of the economy.”
Nationally recognized Chickasaw composer Jared Tate explains, “Specialized music courses are critical to personal and human development. If our high school children enrolled in courses such as ‘General Math,’ ‘General Reading,’ or ‘General Science,’ we would be in obvious trouble.”
“Music and science are simply different ways of examining life’s big questions,” said Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation President Stephen Prescott, M.D., “both look at why and how the world is the way it is, and both look for ways to improve that world. Music education, like learning biology or chemistry, creates a foundation of creativity and self-expression that serves all students well, whether they go onto careers as medical researchers or concert violinists.”
Wide Variance in Access
Nearly every school in Oklahoma offers some type of music course. But the report shows that there is no “average school” when it comes to music education in the state.
General Music is taught in ninety-five percent of our elementary schools, but only half of those schools offer more than one music course, which limits choices for students. When more than one course is offered, Choir is most common, with Band more often found in rural schools and Orchestra more likely to be found in affluent communities.
In middle schools, Choir and Band courses are very common (95% and 87% respectively). These offerings replace General Music almost entirely, with just 7% of middle schools offering General Music. This is a barrier for children who want to understand music, but aren’t inclined to become part of a performance ensemble.
At the high school level, the variety of music courses increases, but more than 60% of all high schools offer two or less courses. Small high schools are far less likely to offer music courses than larger high schools. This disparity is greater than in elementary and middle schools.
Bob Morrison, founder of Quadrant Arts Education Research, which conducted the study, adds, “These results are not atypical, and there are many ways to accommodate varying regional needs and course offerings. The overarching goal is to assure that every child has an opportunity to take advantage of music courses at all levels of the public school system.”
Guaranteeing access is often a matter of better utilizing current resources, rather than creating new programs or adding personnel. One of the recommendations in the report is to examine and evaluate emerging technologies as a way to deliver a diversity of music courses to smaller schools.
Among the recommendations in the report is a formalization of data gathering that can help maintain ongoing accountability. Superintendant Garrett explains, “We need to know the hard facts about access and participation in music and all the arts in order to make wise decisions and to develop effective and efficient programs. This preliminary report has been most helpful in shining light on the state of arts education in Oklahoma.”
To that end, a more detailed study of arts education in Oklahoma is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2010.
The complete report “Scratching the Surface: What We Know – and Don’t Know – About Music Education in Oklahoma,” may be downloaded at:
The Kirkpatrick Foundation
Founded in 1955 by John and Eleanor Kirkpatrick, the Kirkpatrick Foundation provides project support or general operating support through grants for non-profit organizations in four major areas including: Arts and Culture, Education, Animal Concerns and Environmental Conservation, including natural, man-made and the built environment. Governed by a board of trustees and responding to some 100 grant requests each year, the Foundation also gives attention to emerging issues such as arts integration, creativity and environmental education through its own initiatives. Institutional research and/or seed grants to organizations in the interest areas, along with strategic partnerships, further support the Foundation's mission. The Kirkpatrick Foundation distributes approximately two million dollars annually, primarily in Central Oklahoma.
Quadrant Arts Education Research
Early mariners relied on celestial bodies to find their way on the open sea. One of the first reliable navigational devices they used was the quadrant. With it they were able to traverse the vast ocean. The quadrant opened up the world to exploration. Today, we are all explorers on a great sea of opportunity. Whether we are businesspeople, educators, advocates or elected officials, we need reliable ways to determine: where we are - and where we’re going
Quadrant Arts Education Research embraces this same philosophy as a national leader in arts education research, analysis, and market intelligence serving the fields of culture, commerce, government and education. Quadrant Arts Education Research serves the four major arts disciplines – music, dance, theater and visual arts – providing data, analysis, and market intelligence to give clients an accurate picture of current market conditions plus the knowledge necessary to chart a course into the future.