Arts Advocacy & Awareness

Statement from Arts Advocacy & Awareness Chair:

I am honored to serve as the Arts Advocacy and Awareness chair.  This site will have posts/materials that pertain to advocating for the arts.


1. What are our primary goals as music educators regarding arts awareness and advocacy?

2. Are we helping our students understand the importance of becoming an advocate of the arts and are we giving them help/tools toward that goal?

3. In what advocacy project could we involve ourselves and our students?

4. How can we better reach the parents of our students to help them understand that the education they are receiving in your respective studios has benefits far beyond the act of making music?


1. Our state conference can provide significant visibility to this necessary topic through paper presentations, workshops, panels, and informal discussions.  Think about presenting an Arts Advocacy and Awareness topic at a NCMTA conference.

2. When giving a concert or putting on a studio recital, let the audience know some quick factoid about the importance of music/arts. Make it interesting and meaningful.

My Goals

1. Building an arts awareness and advocacy data bank on our website which will become a resource for all our members. It might include lists of studies showing the benefits of music study and the like. It might also include organizations which provide resources and information on arts awareness and advocacy. I welcome information from you. If you find something that you think would be of interest to our members regarding this topic, please send it to me at the email address below for consideration. And thanks in advance.

2. Let music/arts educators throughout the state know that this organization is committed to supporting arts awareness and advocacy efforts, especially to developing new initiatives. All ideas are welcome. May I give a talk? Invite me!


Dylan Savage, DM

Associate Professor of Piano

University of North Carolina-Charlotte

Practice Makes Habitual

As a university piano professor, I spend a great deal of time helping my students learn better practice techniques.  I then constantly remind them to make the techniques habitual -- engage them daily. Those habits are always music and in life.

Why couldn't arts advocacy and awareness be practiced by each of us?  A little each day or week -- till it becomes habitual.  What message about the importance of music study is sitting in the back of your mind?  When will you make it?  To whom?  And with practice, how might that message become more effective?  

We needn't wait.  Our audience needn't be large or important.  It could be a single person who's curiosity or interest could be piqued by something you said.  That interest might lead them to an art gallery a concert -- and their lives transformed.  

We can never really know what impact our words may have regarding the arts -- but we must make our case.  Often.  Practice talking about arts advocacy.  It's important to the world and to you.  Practice will make habitual.

Dylan Savage


Sites, studies, articles, and blogs that support music advocacy. /  Americans for the Arts. Perhaps one of the best, most comprehensive sites for arts advocacy.  National Association of Music Parents.  This is a wonderful site for tools to communicate the importance of music and the arts. Including pre-concert presentations on video and articles which help educate school boards.  A quote from their site reads: "Music for All is committed to providing the most comprehensive resource center supporting the cause of music and arts education."  This site offers a tremendous array of up-to-date materials and videos on music advocacy.  The National Association for Music Education offers many advocacy resources, including an email address dedicated to answering arts advocacy questions.  It is:  League of American Orchestras.  This site is dedicated to helping policies that increase public access to orchestral music and includes links to "virtually every useful resource". 

A study by Stanford University and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching reports, “Young people who learn the rigors or planning and production in the arts will be valuable employees in the idea-driven workplace of the future.”  (This is from a secondary source: quoted from an article found in the Kennedy Center’s, ArtsEdge.  I could not locate the primary source.)  The study reinforces what many people already know: training in the arts potentially helps teach important skills.


Read October 2014 College Music Society’s landmark Undergraduate Music Major report, called Transforming Music Study from its Foundations: A Manifesto for Progressive Change in the Undergraduate Preparation of Music Majors, challenges the music education world by saying “The time has come for academic music study to take its next revolutionary strides and, in doing so, to produce a new generation of artist-visionaries who will contribute their transformative worldview to the whole of twenty-first-century life.”  The CMS committee has recommended changes to the current nationwide college music education process that include an “option rich curricula” and “new core skills”.  The report can be found on their site,


 In 2013, the German Institute for Economic Research published a study called How Learning a Musical Instrument Affects the Development of Skills, in the Social Science Research Network.  In their abstract, researchers Adrian Hille and Jürgen Schupp reported, “Music improves cognitive and non-cognitive skills more than twice as much as sports, theater, or dance.”  The study compared music training with sports, theater, and dance among 3000 teens.


In a December, 2013 study published in Frontiers in Educational Psychology called High School Music Classes Enhance the Neural Processing of Speech, researchers found “…that 2 years of group music classes in high school enhance the neural coding of speech.”  This clearly suggests that students with music backgrounds are better able to identify and extract sounds from a complex soundscape.  How could those abilities be applied to non-music fields?  Remember, many of our music students will be finding full-time employment in fields other than music.  


Music in the Classroom: Its Influence on Children’s Brain Development, Academic Performance, and Practical Life Skills.  In her Master’s thesis, Jenny Yoon from Biola University, wrote:  “In addition, many practical life skills are acquired through music learning and music training.  Music education is believed to deserve the status as an equally significant core subject.”  


In an October, 2014 article for the Wall Street Journal called A Musical Fix for American Schools, Joanne Lipman writes, “American education is in perpetual crisis.  Our students are falling ever farther behind their peers in the rest of the world.”  In the following paragraph, she proposes a remedy:  “Many solutions have been tried, but few have succeeded.  So I propose a different approach: music training.  A growing body of evidence suggests that music could trump many of the much more expensive fixes that we have thrown at the system.”  


From The Kennedy Center’s, ArtsEdge.  How the Arts Teach Life Skills:  Grades 6 to 8.  “The arts help children learn important life skills.”  This one-page article goes on to identify a number of skills such as collaboration, communication, and becoming life-long learners. 


My View: Everything I need to know, I learned in music class.  Here, tuba player Andrew Schwartz (who did graduate work at the Manhattan School of Music) writes in a special to CNN that he found he already had high-demand skills such as skills problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking when he made the switch to an MBA program at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business.  How many of us know people with similar paths to Schwartz’s? 


Life Lessons in Music.  David Ahrens is a band director at Bear River High School, Grass Valley, CA.  These are a series of 12 blog posts written between 2010 and 2011 from his Sound Education website – each one focuses upon one life lesson learned through music.  Regarding critical thinking he writes, “The musician must make constant critical judgments regarding pitch, tone, phrasing, and many other considerations in bringing the music to life.”  How might we effectively let our students’ parents about this potential in our lessons?  Perhaps a simple mention is a good start. 


The Biggest Lesson Music Taught Me About Life in Science.  July, 29, 2014:  “Music, in many ways, prepared me for a life in science; creativity, work ethic, the desire to innovate just to name a few.”  Michael D. L. Johnson, Ph.D. in bio-chemistry and biophysics from Chapel Hill, BA in Music, Duke. 


The home page of The International School of Music has as their header:  Benefits of Music: How Playing Music Enhances Your Life -- 12 Important Skills Your Child Learns by Studying Music.  Included in that list are:  teamwork, problem-solving, coordination, discipline, communication, making value judgments, etc.   They state that “There is an undeniably strong correlation between music education and development of skills that our children need to become successful in life.”    


One of the most articulate statements on the universal benefits of music study come from a recent letter posted online by Lawrence E. Bethune, Vice President for Students Affairs and Dean of Students at the Berklee College of Music,:  “During my over forty years as a music educator, I have often been asked by parents about the benefits gained from the serious study of music.”  To paraphrase and quote from the next paragraph, he says there are tremendous benefits in simply playing music, starting with small children through senior adulthood.  Among them are the “…transferable skills that one learns.  Music is a discipline that teaches problem solving, a work ethic, creativity, self-expression; skills that can be applied to just about any field.  And the serious study of music can help one become expert in these skills.  Most corporate CEOs will tell you they would love to have experts who can find creative ways to solve problems, who have the self-discipline and self-motivation to improve their own work skills while mastering the skills to collaborate and cooperate with others to get the job done.”  Then Bethune asks, “Sounds just like a musician, doesn’t it?”  His letter continues for six pages, enumerating strengths and skills musicians gain through their study of music. 

In support of music study


Everything We Needed to Know About Business We Learned Playing Music.  Craig M. Cortello.  La Dolce Vita Publishing, 2009.  This book is a collection of personal essays from 32 professionals who attribute their success in business to their prior music education.  The book makes a strong case for music education whether or not a person is going into music as a profession.  For example, Monica Ricci, professional organizer and founder of Catalyst Organizing Solutions, she speaks in her essay of the benefits learned in playing in music ensembles that taught her collaboration and teamwork skills.  Another essay contributor, Dan Burrus, CEO and Founder of Burrus Research Technology, attributes his music performance background as a guitarist in helping him become a major success as a speaker (over 2300 keynotes).  These essays make a strong case that skills learned in the music lesson are absolutely essential in the business world. 

The Artistic Edge: 7 Skills Children Need to Succeed in an Increasingly Right Brain World.  Lisa Phillips.  Lisa Phillips, publisher, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2012.  This self-published book makes a case for why the arts are extremely important in education and to our children’s futures.  In the forward to this book, Raymond Aaron, NY-Times best-selling author of Chicken Soup for the Parent’s Soul, writes, “Education in the arts is not just for those who want to pursue careers in the arts.  It is about helping our children develop the skill set they need most in the twenty-first century.”