Education Insights| Power of Music and Performing Arts

Music and the performing arts have always been a passion for me. As a child, I was fascinated by sound, motion and creativity in all of its many forms. I would listen avidly to music, watch dancers with admiration and awe, and immerse myself in the dramatic life that actors created for me on the stage. My passion for the arts was a surprise to my parents. My mother was a magazine editor and my father was a solar physicist. Although they enjoyed the arts it was never the main focus of our house. Science, mathematics and English were what my parents understood best. My school in the United States had a nearly non-existent performing arts program. It was not considered a vital part of a good education. My parents, however, were very smart. They understood that passion and creativity are vital to success. So, they invested in me. They found me a piano teacher and borrowed money to buy a piano. They took me to endless dance classes although I was never destined to be a dancer. They supported my interest in theatre.

Over time my focus expanded beyond myself. I became passionate about passing my love of music and the performing arts to others, specifically to young pupils. I fervently believe that music and performing arts education is as vital to each pupil’s development as math, reading, science, language and history. Pupils need to not only be good problem solvers but even more vitally they need to understand the power of collaboration and realise that by working together they can achieve so much more. They need to feel that their contributions are worthy, and that they have the skills necessary to navigate through an unknown future. Studying the arts has the unique ability to help pupils in just this way. Pupils who study the arts are more likely to become independent thinkers and life-long learners. Uniquely, studying the arts develops the ability to work collaboratively, think creatively and live successfully in a fast-paced and changing world. Personally, I believe that studying music gave me the tools I needed in both my career and in my life in general. It taught me to listen carefully, challenge myself, be analytical, constantly hone my skills, be flexible, be courageous and most importantly, be joyful. This is something I wish to pass on to every pupil with whom I have the privilege to work.

These values inhabit the music classrooms of Wellington College International Hangzhou. From the youngest pupils on up, the music classroom is a place of collaboration. Pupils interact with us as their teachers and one another on a human level. We collaborate. We increase our literacy skills. We build upon our listening skills. We make musical decisions as an ensemble. We play and make mistakes. We fix them and we try again until all of our musical voices are united as one. We practice and dedicate ourselves to the class and to making music together. And pupils understand that making music does not happen by magic. They see and are inspired by one another. They understand that the strongest players have worked hard and practiced repeatedly. It is not unusual to see pupils leave the classroom singing the songs we have sung or trying to capture a tricky rhythm. During school breaks, pupils can be found in the practice rooms and in the music classrooms working on music together or alone. Their goal is to create something beautiful and admirable. Something that everyone can enjoy together.

This embodies the Wellington values of respect, integrity, courage, kindness and responsibility. Through the pursuit of the arts, our pupils are passionate, hard-working, thirsty for knowledge, diligent about constantly improving and connecting with other pupils and teachers in order to do so. This is why I am so thrilled to be the teacher of these pupils. Why I look for every opportunity to engage pupils more deeply with the arts. Why we bring in outside arts professionals to come work with our pupils. I believe that all that we do pushes pupils to become more deeply engaged in learning and encourages pupils to connect with all academic subjects, their peers and the world around them in ways that will bring out the best in each pupil. Through hands-on learning, through hard work, practice, repetition and passion, our children will become highly successful adults. And the world will be a better place because of them.