Music in the Key of Peace

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The Importance of Music Education, by Molly MacGregor

I have mentioned a lot in my pieces for this newsletter how important it is for children to interact with others from different backgrounds and viewpoints, to learn about the experiences of others from a perspective they might not have otherwise considered. We’ve also talked about grassroots movements in general and how needed they are in peace efforts. What’s only been touched on briefly, though, is the great benefits of music education for children, in any part of the world, for many reasons. 

Our partner organizations are trying to change how people think about and approach working for peace, as well as bring children of different backgrounds together to have a more empathetic appreciation for the world around them. But they’re also doing something else: giving children a chance to learn music, to appreciate, create, and perform it, and that all on its own is worthy of praise. 

Music education is immensely beneficial to children no matter where they are; even happy, healthy kids growing up in privileged lives with no conflict do better when they have it (just one example: “A research team exploring the link between music and intelligence reported that music training is far superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing children’s abstract reasoning skills, the skills necessary for learning math and science. Shaw, Rauscher, Levine, Wright, Dennis and Newcomb, “Music training causes long-term enhancement of preschool children’s spatial-temporal reasoning,” Neurological Research, Vol. 19, February 1997”). And for children growing up amidst conflict—I don’t just mean the Israeli/Palestinian conflict here, I mean any child dealing with fear and chaos and uncertainty on a regular basis—music is an outlet, a way to channel feelings and concerns that might otherwise stay bottled up. Music is something a child can connect to and a skill they can hone for the rest of their life. It’s also a way to spread a message about what their lives and struggles are like, by catching the attention of others with an interesting sound so that they keep listening to the story being imparted. 

By supporting Music in the Key of Peace and the organizations we work with, you’re supporting not only grassroots, bottom-up initiatives for peace, you’re also supporting music education for children, which is eminently beneficial for the development of both self-discipline and self-expression. There’s not just one approach to music education happening, either. The Shani Choir stresses the importance of appreciation for classical music, Heartbeat:Jerusalem is in the process of developing a hip-hop opera, and the children at Ein Bustan can often be found singing along (sometimes in Hebrew, sometimes in Arabic) while a teacher plays a guitar. So we aren’t just giving children a chance to learn and create music, we’re giving them a chance to learn and create many different types of music. Because of this, not only will the children helped by our friends have experience working and playing side-by-side with Jewish, Arab, Palestinian and Israeli kids, they’ll be learning about the beauty of music at the same time. They’ll gain lifelong skills that will benefit them whether they continue to perform their whole lives or not, and they’ll have a new way of expressing fear, anger, joy and sadness available to them.

Molly MacGregor