“Why Study Music in High School?”

By Dr. Tim Lautzenheizer

Friedrich Nietzsche, a great German philosopher, wrote that music was one of the arts which so sharpened our sense of participation in the world that it gave a much greater meaning to life. For him, it was not merely a passing pleasure but one of the things which made living possible. Nietzsche also shared the conviction with many scholars that music could exert powerful effects on human beings. Many of the earliest cultures recognized that music should be an important part of every human’s education. Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle believed in the ability of music to motivate humans towards excellence in all endeavors.
Recent research indicates that the study and performance of music can enhance the learning ability of students in dealing with other subjects, and enhance their overall well being. In the state of Georgia, as an example, state law mandates that every newborn be provided with a classical music compact disk, symbolic of the importance of music from the beginning of the life.

In conclusion, the performance of music is one of the few educational pursuits that truly combines the physical, emotional, and intellectual dimensions of human beings. One must draw on physical capabilities, much like an athlete. One must possess an acute awareness and understanding of the power of human emotion, much like the psychologist. One must understand the structure and notation of the musical language, much like a mathematician or computer scientist. Few disciplines allow one to integrate so many different aspects of self as music does. And finally, few disciplines provide one with as complete an array of experiences which, as Nietzsche so accurately stated, makes life worth living.

Music is Science. It is exact, specific; and it demands exact acoustics. A conductor’s full score is a graph which indicates frequencies, intensities, volume changes, melody and harmony all at once and with the most exact control of time. It embodies many levels of physics from acoustics to architecture.

Music is Mathematical. It is rhythmically based on the subdivisions of time into fractions which must be done instantaneously, not worked out on paper, in a highly specific form with regard to exact placement and symmetry.

Music is a World Language. Most of the terms are in Italian, German or French; and the notation is certainly not English. It is a highly developed kind of shorthand that uses symbols to represent ideas. The semantics of music is the most complete and universal language.

Music is History. Music usually reflects the environment and times of its creation, taking on the emotion of a nation, region or a people. It is the only Art form we can hear as people hundreds of years ago had. Unlike paint, whose image is always there once created, Music is perpetually “Repainted” each time it is performed. The feelings and thoughts of countless generations are forever cast in Sound.

Music is Physical Education. It requires fantastic coordination of the fingers, hands, arms, lips and facial muscles, and control of diaphragmatic, back, stomach and chest muscles, which respond instantly to the sound the ear hears and the mind interprets. There are as many calories burned by a symphony trumpet player in one performance as there are by a quarter-back in a professional football game.

Music is Art. It allows a human being to take technical and sometimes difficult areas of learning and translate them into human emotion. It helps every person to recognize and understand beauty, and to understand love, compassion and how to live more fully within this world.

This is Why We Study Music. Not because we expect every student to major in music. Not because we expect people to play music all of their lives. Not so you can relax. Not so you can have fun.

BUT: So you will be human, so you will recognize beauty, so you will be more sensitive, especially to all the thoughts and feelings put into sound throughout the ages, so you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world, so you will have something to cling to, so you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good – in short, more life!