Why every student would benefit from taking music class

The+Bethel+Park+Black+Hawk+Marching+Band+gathers+at+the+entrance+of+the+school+to+sing+the+Alma+Mater.

Shelley Crowe

The Bethel Park Black Hawk Marching Band gathers at the entrance of the school to sing the Alma Mater.

The past year and a half has been especially difficult for students. Remote learning, social distancing, mask-wearing, and quarantining, for example, have made being a student particularly challenging. Music, especially because of its intrinsic therapeutic qualities, can be beneficial to students.

According to Viewpoint Center, “Researchers from the University of Vermont have shown that musical training can lead to lower anxiety in children and help with emotional control.” 

“Music is valuable by itself because it has inherent artistic, social and intellectual value,” BPHS Black Hawk Marching Band director Mr. Thompson said.

Along with directing the marching band, Mr. Thompson teaches Freshman Band, Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Jazz Ensemble. He has been teaching for 13 years.

I always walk out of my music classes feeling so much happier than I did before I walked in.”

— Clara McGough

“Music is my life… quite honestly, I can’t imagine my day without it,” sophomore Clara McGough said. “I always walk out of my music classes feeling so much happier than I did before I walked in.”

McGough takes Orchestra and Treble Choir. McGough is also involved in the spring musical. Last spring, she took the stage as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” She will star as Ella in this year’s spring musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.

Mental, emotional, social benefits of taking a music class

Music classes are not recognized enough for their many benefits. These benefits include reduced stress, improved mental health, better academics, increased self-expression, etc.

Sophomore orchestra student Ana Winowich said: “Music classes make me so happy. It is a nice little break in my day to have Orchestra and helps me escape from stressful things.”  

Winowich plays violin in the orchestra at BPHS. She was also in chorus from fifth through eighth grade.

“I believe the practice and discipline of anything musical often leads to joy and can be therapeutic, even for those with lower affinity for music,” said local TV news anchor and reporter Shannon Radinick. 

Radinick goes by her maiden name Shannon Perrine on Pittsburgh’s Action News Four on WTAE TV. 

Radinick is a mother of three, two of which currently attend Bethel Park schools. Her oldest child is a 2021 BPHS graduate. She highly encourages her children to participate in music where her oldest was enrolled in choir classes at BPHS such as Top 21 and Concert Choir, and her middle is currently enrolled in Concert Choir and Symphonic Band. Her youngest partakes in the choir at her church.

I believe the practice and discipline of anything musical often leads to joy and can be therapeutic, even for those with lower affinity for music.”

— Shannon Perrine, WTAE News Anchor

In her youth, Radinick also participated in music. Radinick attended Moon Area High School where she sang in the choir, played bells in marching band, and performed in musicals. She also sang in her church choir and appeared in a rock band.

Even as an adult, she enjoys singing in her church choir occasionally, and she plays guitar and piano.

Members of the trumpet section in the Black Hawk Marching Band at the football game against West Allegheny this fall (Shelley Crowe)

Music classes also benefit students academically. It is recommended that children and teenagers should enroll themselves in music classes because it develops their minds musically and mathematically, and it improves their vocabulary.

According to the BPHS course selection guide, “Students enrolled in any of the following music classes will fulfill a comprehensive music education by studying, creating and performing music that develops music reading skills, individual performances skills, ensemble performance skills, musical understanding, and artistry.” 

According to Dosomething.org, “Children who study music tend to have larger vocabularies and more advanced reading skills than their peers who do not participate in music lessons.”

“Music classes introduce concepts of math, language, and world culture to students who may not otherwise be exposed to those concepts enough,” Radinick said.

Music classes, along with improving academics and mental health, encourages students to branch out and make new friends.

At BPHS, the Music Department acts like a family where everyone is very loving and supportive. 

When asked about his favorite part of taking a music course, senior Evan Isenberg said: “Making music with your music family. You start to feel more as a whole when you work towards the same end goals with others.”

Isenberg is enrolled in Top 21, Symphonic Band, Concert Choir, and AP Music Theory. He is one of the drum captains in the Black Hawk Marching Band.

Along with music classes and marching band, Isenberg also takes part in the spring musicals. Last year, he played Mitch Mahoney in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” This year, he will take the stage as Prince Topher in “Cinderella.” He began doing the school musicals at Independence Middle School (IMS) his seventh-grade year.

Isenberg enjoys sharing bonds with his classmates and castmates. “[Music] allows you to break out of your shell and share memories like no other program,” Isenberg said.

[Music] allows you to break out of your shell and share memories like no other program.”

— Evan Isenberg

Lucy Heckla is a freshman involved in band class and the Marching Band. She plays the saxophone in the Marching Band and flute in Freshman Band. When asked about her favorite thing about taking a music class, Heckla said, “The amazing friendships I have made, and how close everyone is.” 

“I feel like so many people in music class are really similar to me, one reason being that we all share a love for music,” said Heckla.

There are special bonds made within the music department. Not only do the students feel loved, but so do the teachers. One of these teachers is Mr. Kuczawa. 

Mr. Kuczawa has been teaching chorus for 29 years. He taught IMS choir for six years and BPHS choir for 23 years. Mr. Kuczawa currently teaches Top 21, Treble Choir, and Concert Choir at BPHS. 

Top 21 at their picnic this past summer (Shelley Crowe)

Mr. Kuczawa said, “Being part of the BP music family we have created is especially rewarding.”

 

Should a music class be required?

It is important to take a music class because of all of the benefits that come along with taking them, but should students be forced to take a music class? 

“School administrators should not force students to do anything,” Radinick said.

Although Radinick believes students should not be forced to take a music class, she said: “I do believe a brief music class should be required for graduation.  Like physical education, the arts often light a spark in young people, opening their minds to new ideas and dreams.”

Students at BPHS are not required to take music classes to graduate as of right now. Mr. Kuczawa said: “Music is required through 8th grade. There is a fine arts requirement to graduate, just not music directly.”

Isenberg said: “As a music student, I do believe students should be required to take a class that correlates with at least some music. Be it Concert Band or Concert Choir… No audition is needed and anyone is welcome!”

Not everyone agrees that it should be a graduation requirement. Even a music student disagrees.

“I do not think it should be forced upon anyone. Maybe someone’s skills lie elsewhere and not in music,” McGough said. “If the kid isn’t fully invested and enjoying what they’re doing, it defeats the purpose of making them take it in the first place.”

BPHS offers many music courses including Music Production, Songwriting, and Music Theory. They offer different band, chorus, and orchestra classes such as Concert Band, Treble Choir, Concert Choir, String Orchestra, etc. 

Some audition music classes students can take are Top 21, Chamber Orchestra, Jazz Band, and Symphonic Band.

Even if students don’t take a music class in school, they could still participate in lessons outside of school just for enjoyment and not for a grade. Common private lessons people take are voice lessons, piano lessons, and drum lessons, but there are many more that a person can derive pleasure from. 

Students should still explore taking music classes to experience the benefits even if they aren’t required to graduate.