Music teachers Helen Van Spronsen and Kirstin Lanyon speak to school trustees on behalf of the Campbell River Music Educators’ Association. Photo, Mike Chouinard/Campbell River Mirror

Music key to all-round school success, teachers tell Campbell River board

More than 1,000 kids involved in music education, while still involved with extra-curricular opportunities

A musical education is key to all-round success in school, says local music teachers.

That was the message of music teachers Kirstin Lanyon and Helen Van Spronsen from the Campbell River Music Educators’ Association, who appeared before the board of education at a meeting late last month.

They acknowledged the board’s support of music programs in the district and outlined some of the benefits this kind of education can bring to students, whether they pursue further studies in music or not.

“With your support we have built on the strengths of past teachers,” said Lanyon, who teaches at Ecole Willow Point Elementary. “Every year we feel so supported by the board.”

She added the district’s program is well-known throughout the province for excellence in music education.

Van Spronsen, who teaches at Ripple Rock Elementary, said she looked into some of the research on outcomes from music education and outlined some of the benefits for students, ones that go beyond an appreciation of and ability with the art-form, for her presentation.

“I just came across so much,” she said.

Some of the educational benefits include an expanded vocabulary, more advanced reading and spelling skills, better attendance at school, higher standardized test scores and better outcomes in math and English.

“It builds 21st century skills,” she said, pointing to examples such as communication, critical-thinking and problem-solving.

Van Spronsen also discussed the cognitive benefits of music education, such as better listening skills and more ability to perceive speech through noise.

It can benefit students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and helps with attention and memory ability.

“It fundamentally alters the nervous system, such that neural changes persist in adulthood,” she said, adding, “The benefits you gain as a child last your whole life.”

On top of this, there are social benefits to music education. Van Spronsen talked about the kindergarten students with whom she works. In class, she focuses not on singing or reading music but on social aspects, such as learning to take turns with other students and cope when it’s not one’s turn.

“They’re more likely to succeed in all other subjects, work better in teams, have enhanced critical-thinking skills … stay in school and pursue further education,” she added.

Van Spronsen also highlighted the importance of teaching students how to work toward long-term goals, especially when taking into account years of practice.

“I think that one is a really important one,” she added.

Lanyon further talked about the vision for the program, which promotes the development of independent, lifelong musicians and learners, as well as encouraging students to take part in a variety of musical opportunities. Another key idea is that it be inclusive and available to all students. Some of the students are showcased in the district’s showcase, this year held March 19.

Throughout the district, there are 1,035 students participating in elective musical programming – 457 in elementary and 578 in middle or high school programs. There are also 136 in extra-curricular programming for music in the district, which includes activities such as playing in school theatrical productions, such as the recent musical Mamma Mia! at Timberline.

RELATED STORY: Timberline looks to ABBA for latest stage inspiration

The board members were a more-than-appreciative audience for the teachers’ presentation.

“This has been one of my favourite areas to support,” said trustee Daryl Hagen.

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