Education Matters: Modern Music

Local News

CONWAY, Ark.- A new study looks at the impact of incorporating modern day music in the classroom.

Each note William Polk, 15, plays on the guitar, strikes a chord from within.

“It kind of helps me through emotional struggle, sometimes either when I’m really sad or even overjoyed,” William explains.

It’s because he’s able to play songs he wants to learn how to play and resonate with him, not ones that are typically assigned in music class.

I didn’t have as much fun, I didn’t want to practice that much fun; in fact, my mom had to make me practice,” recalls William.

From Counting Crows to Queen, William is finding meaning and is hooked to learn even more.

Now an advanced student at the Conway Institute of Music, William says being in rock band class brings a whole different perspective to music education.

“I was able to learn these techniques that I’ve always wanted to learn so I would focus on it more,” William says. “I was interested and I would grow much faster.”

Jim Skelton says they’ve seen a big positive difference with modern day tunes being incorporated in music lessons over the years.

“It’s more inclusive, so a student isn’t going to like after a couple of weeks doing a music class say, ‘I don’t like Mozart,’ and if they’re doing hip hop or some other popular music, they are going to stick with that music class,” says Executive Director Jim Skelton.

A new study found just that, showing 21st-century music education can lead to an uptick in student focus and connecting to lessons.

Skelton has found it creates a domino effect.

“It also helps them with other things in life, too- public speaking, interaction, social skills, stuff like that,” Skelton says.

Belting out of old habits, this take on music education gives students like William the freedom to think differently and consider new possibilities.

“I can do what I want to do, have fun with it and it just helps me, mentally be an overall better, healthier person,” William says.

The study found more than 95 percent of young people at risk of exclusion at the outset of the program were more likely to attend class throughout the project.

Also, two-thirds maintained or improved in English and math classes.

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