Music Education in Schools

An Open Letter to All Boards of Education About the Power of Music and the Arts in Schools

Kinhaven 2014-282Dear Board of Education Members:

Usually someone like me is writing to you at the end of the year, pleading for no cuts to be made to our arts programs.  But I decided to be proactive and write this at thebeginning of the year — instead focusing on discussing with you ways in which our programs should grow and prosper, not just survive.

Too often, our community is forced to defend the arts in the face of budget season, but we can do better than this.  We need to utilize this “quieter” time of year to not only celebrate the arts in education, but to discuss ways to fully incorporate it into the lives of our children so that we rarely need to discuss dismantling our programs ever again.

I believe it’s important to start this year by reminding ourselves of what the goal of our community is in regards to the education of our children.  In my view, we are charged with at least these three things:


  • We’re teaching our students skills necessary for entering the global workforce — but let’s be careful with this.  We are preparing them for jobs that do not exist yet due to the speed at which technology is changing the world, so using an “Industrial Revolution model” of education is no longer appropriate.
  • We’re preparing them to be great citizens.
  • We’re teaching them to be great human beings — people who can enjoy the deeper forms of beauty, and thus think creatively and in innovative ways about the two points listed above.

During these times of tough budget choices, music advocates such as myself are constantly forced into speaking to the tangible benefits of arts education to ensure it remains a vital part of our public education system.  In this case, we need to discuss more about how the arts can become a more vital part of the system in tangible and intangible (non-tested) ways.

Here are reasons I believe music and the arts have a profound impact on our school system, and some ideas to incorporate the arts into each and every school day:

Music is a core part of our life.  Before we discuss ways music and the arts “helps” academics, let’s first make a strong statement as a school community that all young people should participate in the arts because it’s central to every human society on earth and has an unbelievably important role in every aspect of culture; including history, literature, media and ways in which we communicate.  The intrinsic value of the arts and their role in our daily lives and society — and the importance of helping young people understand and appreciate that value and role — should be at the forefront of our educators’ and administrators’ minds.

Music education can close our achievement gap.  The definition of our Achievementt Gap has almost everything to do with the results of standardized testing.  While I personally believe that a student’s success should not be determined by test scores, let’s play that game while referencing some data:

Not only do the arts improve standardized test scores, a 2012 report from the National Endowment for the Arts showed that, by nearly every indicator studied, a student from a low-socioeconomic (SES) background with a high-arts educational experience significantly outperformed peers from a low-arts, low-SES background, closing (and in some cases eliminating) the gap that often appears between low-SES students and their more advantaged peers.  These improvements were in graduation rates, college attendance and completion rates, and science and writing scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

My point is that we have tried giving SES students “more school” to boost test scores, and not only has it barely worked — it’s not making them like school any more than they already do (and many are miserable).  What if we engaged them in an artistic and creative manner and test scores go up as a result?  When are we going to try something different?

Top-down mandates are one thing, but implementation in the classroom is another.  If we continue to create school schedules that are solely based on state mandates without any creative implementation on our part, our children lose.  Besides, these mandates and educational fads are changing all the time, leaving us reactive and scrambling to conform instead of proactive and placing the mandates “where they belong”.  Whatever our educational leaders say about the arts, they measure achievement through math and language arts scores, not drawing proficiency or music skills.  It’s no surprise then that our district has zeroed in on the tests.  We can do better, and we have the capacity to decide to be ahead of the curve regarding education reform if we choose to do so.

We need to narrow the “opportunity gap.”  While we continue to keep up with these state mandates and new testing fads, our economically disadvantaged kids lose out big time.  They are the ones who see more contact time in academic subjects at the expense of the music and the arts, yet they are the ones who may benefit most from music’s benefits:  enhanced brain development, spatial/visual/temporal processing, improving memory and attention, physical coordination, personal discipline and teamwork.  Consider the fact that students with access to arts education have higher attendance rates and lower drop out rates, and that the arts engage the parents and families of students who are involved in performances and recitals.  Why wouldn’t we make the arts available to at-risk students in abundance?

Creativity is learned and it must be a habit, so we need to create innovative school schedules.  Like any other learned skill, creativity must become a habit in order for it to “stick”.  One day a week of the arts in the school schedule, especially in the earlier grades, is a far shot from teaching creativity.  How would we build a “perfect” school day for our students if there were no state mandates? Let’s start there.  That ideal schedule would reflect our true values as a community and act as a powerful starting point for building a schedule that works for all children.  There are no perfect schedules, but a carefully planned schedule should include flexibility that will positively impact teaching, instruction, and professional development in the arts.

We need to train every single teacher in the arts.  A curriculum rich in the arts is a more engaging curriculum for all.  We need to pool our resources and provide professional development opportunities throughout the year to give our teachers step-by-step strategies to teach in and through the arts.  This will greatly help our teachers bring art and music into their students’ everyday classroom experience.  Through this development, our teachers can learn to teach the “whole child” and reach students who may struggle with traditional approaches to learning — students who have been “lost” in our test-rich system until now.  This will be some of the best money we have ever spent for our schools.

I am writing this because, like you, I want to see the students in our schools succeed, and I’ve seen first-hand the powerful impact arts education can have on students’ academic success.  Our arts-centered school reform initiatives can engage students and teachers, improve our schools’ climates and cultures, and help connect our schools to families and communities.  We need to do everything we can to fuel students’ imaginations and creativity; the arts will enhance students problem-solving and critical thinking skills, which aid their learning in other subject areas.  An education in the arts exposes students to a variety of cultures while enriching their learning experience and teaching them how to be empathetic, tolerant and open to working with others — all necessary skills for success in our multi-cultural society.

Music and arts education should not be a luxury in our district.  Creativity isn’t only reserved for artists and musicians, so let’s turn this problem on its head and share the belief that the arts as the nucleus of an education are essential for every child.  Learning to create and appreciate visual and aural aesthetics is more important than ever before to the development of the next generation of great thinkers, innovators, and human beings.

We have tried the way of the almighty test.  Let’s try something different.


An Optimistic Parent


How Often Should You Tune Your Piano?

The most common question asked of us is “How often does my piano need to be tuned?”  

A piano goes out of tune when the piano is subjected to heat and humidity changes.  Moving the piano does not hurt the tuning until the piano reacts to different temperature and humidity levels. The change in atmosphere affects the dimensions of the case parts making pianos go sharp in higher humidity and flat in lower humidity.

In residential use a piano should be tuned at the change of seasons.  Four tunings a year is ideal.  If the temperature and humidity are kept constant through external devices such as a humidifier in the winter months and air conditioning in the summer, the need for tuning can be minimized and reduced to twice a year. 

In professional use the piano needs to be tuned more frequently. Usually this occurs because of increased use or an institutional atmosphere such as an auditorium that may have the heat and air conditioning turned on or off frequently.  For high level professional use (like a concert hall) the piano may need to be tuned daily to insure that it is in perfect tune for each instance of concert or recording work.


Tuning a piano is a profession that requires training, practice, and a knowledge base that takes an investment of time and practice to learn and master. It is best to leave tuning to the professionals.


Music lessons are the best thing a parent can do for their children

Music Lessons Were the Best Thing Your Parents Ever Did for You, According to Science

Music & The Brain


“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” – Plato

Who doesn’t love music and isn’t somehow emotionally, mentally or even physically affected by it?

That’s also why some people have been known to burst into tears after watching a classical orchestra. We came across an interesting post by Melanie Foster at Online PHD Programs on the 15 Studied Effects of Classical Music on Your Brain. Here’s an excerpt from her piece:

“Classical music, whether you love it or hate it, has been a powerful cultural force for centuries. While it no longer dominates the music scene, the argument for continued appreciation of the genre goes far beyond pure aural aesthetics. Classical music has been lauded for its ability to do everything from improve intelligence to reduce stress, and despite some exaggeration of its benefits, science shows us that it actually does have a marked effect on the brain in a number of positive ways.”

Our favorite effect is how emotional expression in music and speech affect the brain similarly. Music imitates the tonal characteristics of emotions relayed through voice, which taps into our innate communicative abilities. That’s why music can cause a stir in your senses through its different instruments, modes and melodies – and this applies to music of all genres and cultures around the world.

Get a taste of Melanie’s article through the infographic above, and find out what the 15 effects of classical music to the brain are by reading all about it here.

Phipps Plaza Welcomes Steinway Piano Galleries

Phipps Plaza, the Southeast’s premier shopping destination located in the heart of Buckhead and owned by Simon, a leading global retail real estate company, is excited to announce the recent addition of Steinway Piano Galleries to its impressive retail roster.

“Upon visiting Phipps Plaza for the first time, I knew it was the perfect fit for Steinway Piano Galleries,” said Ron Losby, president of Steinway & Sons. “We’re thrilled about our new location and to be able to serve the Atlanta community in such an upscale environment.”

The recently opened 2,626 square foot store is located on the second level in the Court of the South with a unique selection of Steinway-designed pianos. Since 1853, Steinway & Sons has been hand-crafting the finest pianos in the world from its factory in New York, where the company was founded. Steinway is the piano choice for over nine out of 10 performing concert artists each year.

Representing the best in acoustic pianos, Steinway Piano Galleries is celebrating over a century in business and has served over 250,000 customers in its history. Piano lessons are also available in the store’s state of the art teaching facilities along with other services such as piano tuning, repair and restoration.

“Steinway Piano Galleries is excited about the opportunity to present the full line of Steinway and Steinway-designed Boston and Essex pianos at Phipps Plaza,” said Chris Syllaba, president and CEO of Steinway Piano Galleries. “The iconic Steinway brand is a perfect match with Phipps Plaza, the premier, luxury shopping destination in the heart of Buckhead.”

The Atlanta community is invited to join Steinway Piano Galleries for its grand opening celebration on Wednesday, October 22 at 6:30 p.m. RSVP preferred

Mercer’s Music School Gets New Pianos

The sound of music at Mercer University is about to get a lot richer and a lot more enhanced.

That’s because a large donation to the music school bought students nearly 40 brand new, top-of-the line Steinway pianos and helped refurbish seven others.

Mercer University’s chancellor, Dr. Kirby Godsey, gave $1.5 million to the Townsend School of Music in his wife, Joan’s, honor.

That money helped create the Joan Stockstill Godsey Center for Keyboard Studies and will cover annual maintenance and upkeep for the pianos.

“I was totally blown away, I had no idea,” Joan Godsey said.

For Godsey, ebony and ivory are her solace.

“I started piano when I was 7 years old and music has been my life,” Godsey said.

You can read the rest of the story, here, on WMAZ’s website.

A Tribute To Clem D’Avella

ClemA Tribute to Clement D’Avella
1931 – 2014

Today we celebrate the life of Clem D’Avella, a man who had a great
impact on so many of us in the music industry.

Clem was born in Italy but spent most of his years in the Washington
DC area. He lived in Washington DC, in Sliver Spring and eventually
settled in Potomac, Maryland.

In 1956, Clem began his life-long career in the music industry at the
original Arthur Jordan Piano Company store on 13th and G Streets in NW
Washington DC. He was assigned to the piano department and quickly
became a store manager, moving to the Silver Spring, MD store. Moving
steadily up the ranks he eventually became Executive Vice President
and ultimately, in 1988, President of Jordan Kitt’s Music.

Clem remained in that position until his “retirement” in 1991. Even
after retirement, however, Clem’s dedication to the company and it’s
employees remained as he was called back in 1993 to again lead the
sales organization. Even after his second retirement Clem was senior
advisor to Jordan Kitt’s until owner Bill McCormick’s passing in 2007.

Clem was instrumental in so many ways to the company, including the
period of expansion into the Baltimore and Richmond markets. He was a
key figure in the acquisitions of Wells Music (Denver market) in 1981,
Wilmington Piano Company (Philadelphia market) in 1988, and Temple of
Music (Virginia Beach market) also in 1988.

Clem quickly became Mr. McCormick’s right hand man, both in motivating
the Jordan Kitt’s sales force and during his vendor trips to Italy
with Mr. McCormick’s company, Georgetown Leather Design.

Giving back to the community and the industry was also a big part of
Clem’s life through his years of service on the NAMM board. But his
true contribution was his huge impact on so many lives within and
outside of the industry. He worked very hard to ensure that his mother
and father were well taken care of, participating in their care
together with his sister. He was devoted to his family, including his
wife Mary, both admiring what she accomplished in her career and
cherishing their many years together, and his children, Mike and Frank.

According to friend and former Jordan Kitt’s executive Dennis
Houlihan, Clem was “a man with a huge heart – filled with love and

Clem. You were a truly great man. I will never forget the influence
you had on my life and your unwavering guidance in my career. Thank
you for the person you were and your invaluable contribution to this

Chris Syllaba
President & CEO

Piano Lessons Stimulate The Brain And Unlock Your Creativity

Are you in a rut and want to try something new? Or maybe you want to get your kids involved in a new activity- one that doesn’t involve game controllers or remotes.

You want something challenging and creative, but what? Have you ever thought about taking piano lessons? Not only do you or your kids learn a skill, but it also stimulates the brain and encourages creativity.

For one thing, piano lessons improve concentration. Think about it- you are employing your fingers, your eyes, your ears and even your feet when you play. That requires great coordination as well as focus. Your brain is controlling a variety of areas at once and, as a result, your mental acuity is sharpened. This enhanced focus follows you in other aspects of your life. Your kids will get more out of school and their grades may even improve.

Your mind doesn’t feel sluggish and your attention to detail is improved. Creativity is also unlocked through piano lessons. If you or your children have an aptitude for music, it could lead to composing and improvisation. It may lead to creativity in other areas as well.

Writing, painting or drawing may be drawn out through the music. Play fun stuff, colorful pieces that excite you and make you want to learn more. Piano lessons don’t have to be boring and stuffy.

It is best to start kids out early in life to get the most benefits. Their brains are still developing and by stimulating it through learning how to play an instrument, it improves their ability to learn and absorb information.

It is also a great way for mentally impaired children to communicate and express themselves, especially if they can’t do it verbally. For older adults, piano lessons are a great way to wake up parts of the brain that may have been stagnant.

Ultimately, it can help with memory and concentration making them more self-sufficient. And of course, it’s never too late for grown-ups to learn something new. This skill will open up a new world of fun and creativity.

To get the most out of your piano lessons, choose the right teacher. If it’s for your kids, find one that can address their specific learning style and one that can keep their attention.

If you are interested in learning, find someone who has experience teaching adults. There are several methods and techniques used to teach this skill and it is important to find the one that works for you, otherwise you or your kids will lose interest.

Above all else, learning to play is fun and satisfying and if you’re having fun, you are more receptive to learning. It’s also fun to experiment. Even if you aren’t very good, sit down at the keys and just play something. Let your creativity fly and see what your hands and your brain come up with. It may sound like noise, but then again, you may unlock the Billy Joel in you. Learn a new skill, have fun and exercise your brain- take some piano lessons.

Hall Piano Company, Metairie, is Louisiana’s premier establishment for piano sales and service. They offer piano lessons designed with all levels of students in mind, from the absolute beginner to advanced player. Visit them at to download a free piano buying guide.

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There is Room for Music and Sports

Children can benefit from beginner piano lessons. So before you dismiss this as an alternative activity to sports, read this article.
The fact that simply listening to Mozart at a young age can dramatically enhance a young child’s intellectual capabilities is still in debate. But there is no question that learning to play Mozart on the piano can be exceptionally beneficial to young children. Many parents today look to sports as positive influences on their children’s motor and concentration skills, as well as their value of teamwork. But some children are not sports oriented, and good piano lessons provide many of those same benefits, if not more.
Learning to play piano will improve upon a young child’s coordination skills. Unlike many other instruments, the piano requires both hands to independently maneuver the keys. While the right hand may be playing a lilting melody, the left hand may be required to keep a slow steady beat. Not only do the hands work independent of each other, but so to do the fingers. The fingers on each hand must grab for the lower white keys, or the upper black keys to produce the proper harmony. At times, certain fingers will not press any keys at all. Good lessons will include many exercise books for the beginning student. Major and minor scales will teach the student to move each and every finger up and down the keyboard with precision.

Much like karate or tennis, playing the piano also requires concentration. If the child has never played a musical instrument, learning to properly read sheet music will be incorporated into the lesson. The black dots and lines representing notes and bars are like a foreign language. The child must learn to interpret the sheet music, then vocalize that translation through the keyboard. Piano teachers that are excellent with young children might approach the new music as a code the child must de-crypt using the piano keys. Most teachers will also set up a practice schedule with the student of perhaps fifteen to twenty minutes a day. With a new mission to de-code the piano music, many students might have no problem keeping to their fifteen minute a day regimen. Others might need reinforcement from their parents, but the benefits of requiring a child to stick to a piano study schedule are no different than requiring that a child attend basketball practice as promised