Music in schools makes rock stars – and so much more

Robby Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls tells LSY! reporter Brianna Kincaid that his life wouldn't be the same if he hadn't had music education as a kid. (Photo by Sarah Cohn)

Robby Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls tells LSY! reporter Brianna Kincaid that his life wouldn’t be the same if he hadn’t had music education as a kid. (Photo by Sarah Cohn)

What if a doctor had not had the opportunity to take a biology class in high school? What if a lawyer never took a class in government and politics? They might not have made it to where they are today.

Early exposure builds aspirations. It helps kids focus on their future careers. Take that exposure away, and a person’s life can turn out very differently.

That’s true of doctors. It’s true of lawyers. And it’s true of artists, too.

If Robby Takac, bassist for the Goo Goo Dolls, hadn’t taken music classes as a kid, he likely wouldn’t have become a musician.

For Robby, music has worked out exceptionally well. Throughout their nearly 30-year career, the Goo Goo Dolls have achieved great success. In 2012, their song “Iris” was named the top pop song of the last 20 years by Billboard. The list of the top 100 pop songs also includes songs by Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Bruno Mars.

But beyond that, it affected him as a person.

Without an exposure to music, he never would have met his wife while touring with the Goo Goo Dolls in Japan. Nor would he have had his daughter.

“When would I ever had been in Japan?” Robby said. “And now we have a beautiful daughter.”

Robby believes so strongly in the value of music education that he founded Music Is Art, an organization that supports schools by providing instruments and running performance festivals. He believes that music education in schools offers something that cannot be provided otherwise.

“It develops a whole other part of you that’s so important to creative thinking and new thoughts,” he said.

Robby started off his career in a band in school, playing Led Zepplin songs in his garage. He also played the trombone in his school band. Through both his personal experience at home and the traditional music training in school, he became the well-rounded and world-known musician he is today.

It also gave him a good excuse to have shaggy hair.

“I would probably have a different haircut I would imagine,” Robby joked when asked how his life would be different if he never had any exposure to music.

A well-funded music program can inspire children and teenagers who dream of becoming singer-songwriters, like Ben Folds. Ben grew up in a creative environment in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and attended R. J. Reynolds High School, now the Richard J. Reynolds Magnet School for the Visual and Performing Arts, where his teachers allowed him to be creative with music. His teachers kept an open mind and would allow him to incorporate music into non-music related projects.

“I remember writing a song, ‘Liberia’, in sixth grade for a presentation on Liberia,” Ben said. “(My teachers kept) an open mind to those things.”

But, according to Ben, not only does music inspire future performers. It provides lessons for aspiring scientists and mathematicians by helping students make connections, work together, and gain confidence.

Ben’s claims are reinforced by multiple research studies, including one by Susan Hallam of the University of London. She found that exposure to music at a young age is connected to a more advanced development of speech and reading comprehension. In her study, children with musical training remembered 17 percent more verbal

Tony-winning Broadway director Pam MacKinnon calls music-education cuts "devastating."

Tony-winning Broadway director Pam MacKinnon calls music-education cuts “devastating.”

information than kids without it. Hallam also found that music promotes confidence and social development.

That was true for Ben.

“Music education as a child (gave) me the confidence to keep going,” he said.

Which is why the arts should be protected. When asked about arts-program budget cuts in her hometown of Buffalo, Pam MacKinnon – a Tony Award-winning Broadway director – had only one word to describe them:

“Devastating.”

She added, “It’s hugely important, I think, and not just because now I am a director. It just affects the way I look at the world.”

 — Brianna Kincaid, LSY! teen reporter, Mount St. Mary Academy

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