Memories: The Case for Art in School

I had amazing choir directors at church and at school growing up.  They forced me to face any fears I had about stage fright very early (there is a picture of me at like 6 on a stage at church doing a solo – I suspect I sounded horrible but he made EVERYONE have a solo).  I don’t have stage fright.

Another thing I know singing taught me is elocution – “the skill of clear and expressive speech, especially of distinct pronunciation and articulation”

When I worked on the phones, I was constantly complimented on how easy I was to understand compared to my peers.  It took me a long time to understand that singing had taught me to literally open my mouth when forming my words.  It wasn’t until I stared at someone who was complaining that they kept getting complaints – I saw it.  I literally saw it and it clicked.  I looked at them and said something like, “You need to practice singing vowels – drop your jaw and sing vowels – then convert that into normal words.”

Breathing, articulation, projection, and a lack of stage fright are all skills which were honed by having amazing art programs while I was growing up.

I took a semester of “art” in high school.  I learned some of the basic terminology and concepts of art so when I got to see the Norman Rockwell collection at the Atlanta High Museum – I appreciated his technique and skill as well as his content.  And then when I went back on my own and saw some other artists, I understood some of the theme they explored – from one semester’s learning I gathered an appreciation for art that has carried me through my life.  I look at graffiti and murals with an eye towards the skill – and don’t kid yourself, good graffiti ( IS impressive and I have a tiny-tiny clue of the level of the skill of those artists.

I hated band, but I hated my flute – I know many of my friends learned skills like buckling down and practicing from their years in band.  Many of them were able to build life-long friendships from marching band.  Many of them understand football because they had to attend all the games.  I can’t claim those, but I can see them.

Every time I see someone say we should cut art spending in schools I see a little bit of red.  I probably have a dozen “dimes” because my schools while I was growing up had great art programs.  I was exposed to different ideas, themes, and cultures through their art.  I was exposed to history by singing great works from the high chants.  I learned through art and I learned to express myself because of art.  I am a writer because I had teachers who encouraged me to explore this art.

When I hear a cashier or co-worker or …. well anyone – mumbling and fumbling I grieve that their education failed them. I grieve that they didn’t have churches and schools where they learned these skills.