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Fine Arts College Information Night is Just Around the Corner

Our annual Fine Arts College Information Night is coming up on October 10th, 2016, 7-9 pm at Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City. If you are a student or parent wondering what the future may look like pursuing the arts (music, theater, dance, visual art), please join us for an evening of information and panel discussions.

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College Information Night is Here!

Make sure to join us tonight at our annual Fine Arts College Information Night. Registration begins at 6:30 pm at Howard High School in Ellicott City, followed by a short plenary session at 7:00 pm before breaking out into panel discussions for music, theatre, visual art, and dance. At 8:30 pm, there will be an additional session open for financial aid and scholarship information. Our event is growing still, and we would love for you to experience everything College Night has to offer.

Study: Music Education Could Help Close The Achievement Gap Between Poor And Affluent Students

From an article published in the Huffington Post:

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Closing the achievement gap between low-income and affluent students could be as simple as do-re-mi.

In a study out Tuesday from Northwestern University, researchers looked at the impact of music education on at-risk children’s nervous systems and found that music lessons could help them develop language and reading skills. The study is the first to document the influence of after-school music education on the brains of disadvantaged children, as opposed to affluent children receiving private lessons.

Researchers from the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern spent two summers with children in Los Angeles who were receiving music lessons throughHarmony Project, a non-profit organization providing free music education to low-income students. In order to document how music education changed children’s brains, students were hooked up to a neural probe that allowed researchers to see how children “distinguished similar speech sounds, a neural process that is linked to language and reading skills,” according to a press release.

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Photo of Harmony Project student, courtesy of Dr. Nina Kraus.

Students from the study, ages six to nine, were divided into two groups. The first group consisted of children who received two years of music education by the end of the study, while the second group of children had only received one year of lessons. This led researchers to discover that children’s brains only started to respond to the music education after two years of lessons. One year was not enough to have a definitive impact.

“We used a quick but powerful neural probe that allowed us to gauge speech processing with unprecedented precision. With it, we found that the brain changes only followed two years of music training,” Dr. Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, said in a press release. “These findings are a testament that it’s a mistake to think of music education as a quick fix, but that if it’s an ongoing part of children’s education, making music can have a profound and lifelong impact on listening and learning.”

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Photo of Harmony Project students, courtesy of Dr. Nina Kraus.

Leaders at Harmony Project approached the researchers after the non-profit observed that their students were performing much better than other public school students in the area. Since 2008, over 90 percent of high school seniors who participated in Harmony Project’s free music lessons went on to college, even though the high school dropout rates in the surrounding Los Angeles areas can reach up to 50 percent, according to a Northwestern press release.

“Now we know this success is rooted, at least in part, in the unique brain changes imparted by making music,” Dr. Margaret Martin, founder of Harmony Project, said in the press release.

Kraus told The Huffington Post that the study could be a case for expanding music education in school.

“It would appear that music is an effective strategy for helping to close the achievement gap,” Kraus said. “What seems to be happening is that this experience of making music is helping to create a more efficient brain, a brain that is going to be able to help a person learn and communicate, especially through sound.”

The Harmony Project and the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory have teamed up before to study how music education impacts students’ grades. Researchers previously showed that after one year, second-grade students participating in Harmony Project maintained or improved their grades. This compares to peers from the same schools whose grades’ dipped after not participating in music lessons.

“Existing research indicates that kids from poor homes are not learning to read in the first four years of school –- while kids from middle-class and affluent homes are,” Martin previously told The Atlantic. “Given the importance of reading in achieving an education, this finding is stunning.”

How Music Education Improves Brain Development

Thank you, cmuse.org for this wonderful article and video:

It has been said many times that music does wonders for the health of the human brain. But where does it all come from?

How does music trigger such a positive effect on our brains? According to some of the world’s top neuroscientists, the brain reacts to music’s multi-sensorial experience in a unique way. Playing a musical instrument requires many different processes of your mind and on your body to work together. If you play the piano, for example, your hands will touch and feel the keys, you ‘ll think about the pressure you need to apply, you’ll educate yourself to tuning and pitch, you’ll learn the technique and you are developing muscle memory…all of these processes are handled and coordinated by the brain, which in turns, becomes a lot more elastic and flexible. Think of it as the ultimate brain train! If you want to hear more, check out this fantastic clip!

Let The Kid Study Fine Arts, Already!

While this particular article speaks to music specifically, these lessons are applicable to all forms of the arts. From Forbes.com:

The kids are back in school, meaning that one out of every four high-schoolers is entering his or her senior year. That’s college-picking time, and for some parents it’s a stressful ordeal. We get calls from concerned parents. They want to know “What major should my child choose? Which majors will lead to the most secure jobs?”

We tell them “Let the kid study whatever subject grows his flame. That’s where your child will grow the most.” Parents are befuddled. Flame? Growth? They want to know which course of study will give a kid job security for the rest of the kid’s life.

If you’re Swiss and connected to the right people you might be able to get a job in the Swiss Guard at the Vatican. I’d imagine those jobs are pretty secure. The rest of us are living in a gig economy. The only job security possible is the kind we carry around in ourselves. If your kid is musical, let the kid study music! A kid who grows the muscles every musician ends up with will never wonder how to make a dime. Musicians learn lessons kids in more ‘secure’ career paths have no notion of!

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My five kids are musicians. I picked a practical major in college myself — vocal performance. Here I am today, singing, writing, drawing and speaking about the topics that interest me! There is nothing la-la or impractical about a music degree.

Band kids get up at the crack of dawn to sit on buses and nail their routines in tough competitive situations. Orchestra kids do the same, and learn to show up at a gig never having seen the music and play it all the same.

Singers stand on line in drafty churches and auditoriums waiting for their chance to audition, then brush it off with a nice gelato and carry on with their lives. This is the way all our kids should operate!

We delude ourselves when we sentence kids to practical courses of study that don’t light their flames. I know, because in our business we are overwhelmed with career-coaching requests from people aged 45 to 65 who wish they’d followed their hearts instead of the ‘safe’ career course. It’s never too late to get back to your passion, but they wonder “What would have happened if I’d taken a different road?”

A kid with a music degree isn’t limited to a performance or teaching career. Musicians are everywhere. We are project managers, marketers, Finance folks, IT people and engineers. In my twenty-some years as a corporate HR person, I was always impressed by the way musical people excelled at logic and non-linear thinking, both.

Musicians are tough. Any kid who’s talented enough to major in music has his or her choice of other degrees to pursue. Music kids outperform other majors on standardized tests, and they’ve got the chutzpah to follow their passion to a non-cookie-cutter career. Who would hold a kid like that back? Believe me, if the kid ends up finding the music business not to his or her taste, Oracle ORCL +1.43% will be happy to hire the kid as a programmer, and the kid will do a bang-up job.

Let your child follow his or her passion. That’s the way to build muscles in a child. When we tell our talented children “No, darling, don’t study what you love in college. College isn’t about you. It’s about getting hired four years from now” we tell the kid “I don’t have confidence in you.” These are the kids who grow up not believing that they have the right or the ability to follow their dreams. That’s why, in our workshops, we tell the participants “If you still have your viola or your oboe, get it out of the closet and play it! If you don’t have it, go to the second-hand music store and buy one.”

Music turns on your brain in a way business-work doesn’t. The good news is that music is free for the taking, and available to everyone. These days you can learn to play an instrument by watching Youtube, so there’s no reason for anyone with a musical bent to silence the inner voice that says “Play!” Kids who are drawn to music as a college major are special kids. They’ve already put in the time and effort few children are capable of at a young age, and it’s our job to encourage them rather than to tamp their flames.

Life is long. You can do anything you want professionally with a music degree, and young people go out of music performance and music-ed programs into law school, business school and even med school every day.

When your child says “Mom, Dad, I want to major in music” get a grip on your own parental fear (“What if s/he fails, and starves?”) and say “That’s magnificent, my darling! We are thrilled that you’ve discovered your passion at an early age.”

Then, rejoice! 

Liz Ryan CEO & Founder, Human Workplace http://www.humanworkplace.com Reinventing Work for People

Got rhythm? Study ties ability to keep beat with language, reading skills

Rhythm may not come naturally to some people. A new study suggests those people might not be great talkers either.

Scientists studied a group of high school students,and found those who were better at keeping a beat musically had superior language skills compared to their more rhythmically-challenged classmates.

The scientists say this phenomenon reflects a link between the brain’s ability to encode auditory signals — or sounds — and other brain processes that control for movement, language and reading skills.

“Rhythm is an integral part of both music and language,” study author Nina Kraus, a neurobiologist and speech researcher at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., said in a statement. “And the rhythm of spoken language is a crucial cue to understanding.”

To continue reading this article, please click through to the original post on cbsnews.com.

FAAC Update

A new school year has begun, and the FAAC is excited to continue our work with the Howard County Public School System.

State of the Arts in Howard County Schools

We had our first meeting of the 2011-2012 school year on September 19, 2011.  After a brief welcome by FAAC co-chair George Wilson, current and new members of the council introduced themselves and their ties to the arts and the Howard County Public School System.  HCPSS Fine Arts Coordinator Mark Coates presented a State of the Arts.  Highlights from his presentation include:

  • Art labs: programs to assist students in digital media
  • Music Technology labs: MIDI set-ups with keyboards and computers, Sibelius notation software, Smart Music student assistance software, Garage Band
  • All lab spaces to be created or retro-fitted by Summer 2012
  • All high school auditoriums are now centralized in the office of the HCPSS Fine Arts Coordinator
  • Inspections of all high school theaters were performed and funding has been secured to standardize light and sounds systems across all high school theaters
  • 2011-2012 marks the fortieth year of the Columbia Mall Art Show for HCPSS students

College Information Night

Janis McNutt introduced College Information Night, and Stephanie Gurwitz-Zurier provided a brief description and sought volunteers to help moderate panel sessions and other required tasks.  More information will be provided in a later post.

High School Communication Liaisons

It was suggested by a council member that we establish communications liaisons with each school to provide more focused communication with school administrators and teachers.  FAAC would create a newsletter type of communiqué to distribute to the schools and school board members.

Board of Education

Brian Meshkin, HCPSS parent and a member of the Howard County Board of Education, attended our meeting to familiarize himself with the county arts administrators and hear the concerns of all council members.  Mr. Meshkin is quite interested in keeping arts involved with all school in Howard County and taking our schools in a direction that would enhance STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to become STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math).  He sought our ideas and suggestions for improving arts education in HCPSS schools and innovating the teaching of common core subjects to enhance students’ interest in school and improve their test scores.  A council member provided feedback on enhanced arts integration, in particular, at Thunder Hill Elementary and its dramatic effect on their test scores.

Parks and Recreation

Holly, a representative from Howard County Parks and Recreation, was in attendance and seeking a partnership with a HCPSS school to provide an after-school program involving the arts. Her department would be providing the funding for this program.

Openings Within the Committee

Positions for a secretary and website administrator were open and volunteers sought. Katey Pearson, parent and violist, volunteered for the secretary position, and Donna Wiles-Noyes, parent and clarinetist, volunteered for the website administrator position. The FAAC co-chairs and members thank these women for their commitment to our council.

Next FAAC Meeting

The next meeting of the FAAC will be in November. Details will be updated as they are received.