In the play, The Mourning Bride, poet William Congreve states, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks or to bend a knotted oak.” Those in the fine arts have long understood the benefits of playing, composing or merely listening to a high quality musical piece. Recent studies have shown that music instruction enhances cognitive thought, and as a part of an educational curriculum, benefits students in areas such as math and science.
But often in society, we momentarily forget its benefits and let its beauty pass us by. For instance, several years ago, violin virtuoso Joshua Bell took his priceless violin and played for nearly an hour in a Washington, DC subway station. Most passed him by, not realizing who he was or the complexity of the music he was playing. In schools, children now have less access to musical instruction than in the past. In New York City, for example, 59 percent of the schools do not have a full time music teacher. Most children do not participate in a musical program.
But the music hasn’t died. All over the country, fine arts groups are banding together to provide more access to music and musical instruction. These groups, often not for profit organizations, are offering outreach programs for youth, for senior citizens and for anyone desiring to learn or just appreciate the sounds.
A group such as Sing For Hope, for example, places 50 Street pianos new York for a two week period, allowing people to play, to learn or to listen. Trained musicians will be on hand at each piano located in the city.
A music troupe named Young Americans goes to schools throughout the country, providing a weeklong workshop and assistance in putting on a school musical. To date, they have gone to several thousands schools and have had more than 750,000 student participants.
Colleges and Universities throughout the country offer similar outreach programs. These groups are usually formed by the performers themselves, sharing their time, talents and training to those who might not otherwise have access. Grass roots programs such as these are hoping to revive interest in the arts, because with increased interest, increased participation will necessarily follow. With the efforts such as these groups, music in our society will continue to calm the savage breast in society and will bend the knotted oak.