This is my second advanced essay. I chose to write about literacy in music after brainstorming about which skills have lead me to competency in school. At the end of the day, understanding of music has made me a more creative and dedicated student, so wouldn't you know it, that’s what you’ll be reading all about! My greatest challenge while writing this essay was refining my thesis. In fact, my thesis didn’t manifest itself in words until after I had written a couple of scenes of memory and collected outside quotes. I am proud of my utilization of evidence from personal experience and research to support my thesis. I’m also proud of my collaboration with peers; I found things to look out for in my own essay by editing peers’ essays. In the future, I would like to spend more time connecting paragraphs seamlessly with fluid transitions.
“Literacy” has multiple definitions. While the conventionally accepted definitions of literacy are, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “the ability to read and write; knowledge that relates to a specified topic,” literacy in a subject is often more complex than knowledge base, and to be literate in a topic often requires more than just comprehension. To be literate in music is to learn through music. Many people consider themselves auditory learners. Many others love music and have immersed themselves in music from young ages; these people tend to come from families that value music. All of these types of people learn about life through music, whether they use music as a teaching tool or inadvertently gain knowledge from music; because of the benefits of literacy in music, music should be taught to kids from a young age. Music is appreciated in almost all cultures and societies. Conversely, when programs must be cut in school districts in the US, music programs are often decimated and severely undervalued. There must be more advocacy for music programs in the country because literacy in music aids in becoming literate in many other subjects.
I first learned about my own literacy in music at a young age. I have a knack for memorizing song lyrics, and my ability to learn and remember words attached to music has helped me become the reader and thinker that I am today. Kelsey Tarbert from Oneota Reading Journal, in reference to a study done by Wiggins in 2007, writes “Whereas finding fluency in speaking poetry takes practice, music has the rhythm built into it. The score tells students which notes and syllables to stress and which to make longer or shorter. Performing a text in this manner can help students figure out how to do this for non-musical texts without teacher instruction. Both vocabulary and rhymes have a place within literacy and music, and these skills help students become effective language users.” In third grade, I memorized my multiplication tables with Schoolhouse Rock songs. It struck me as shocking when my third grade teacher had to pull me aside during a test on multiplication tables. I was a good student. I immediately felt panic course through my veins; I assumed that I was about to be accused of cheating or that I had broken some other rule. Instead, my teacher politely told me, “Eva, you’re humming and singing the multiplication tables. You have to quiet down.” It dawned on me that Schoolhouse Rock’s ridiculously catchy “Three is a Magic Number” had been stuck in my head throughout the week. My personal experience certainly serves as evidence to support Wiggins’ study; music helps children to remember and understand concepts that they may otherwise have had trouble grappling with.
In my education and in my life, music has played a pivotal role in my understanding of many ideas. Multiplication tables are just one example. As well as helping me to memorize important facts for school, music has helped me to learn about beauty, love, and ultimately, what it means to be human.
One of the first times where words struck me as beautiful was while listening to the Beatles’ song “In My Life” when I was a little kid. My dad carefully helped me place the record of Rubber Soul on our turntable. I turned the volume down, pressed my ear against the smooth, brushed wood of the stereo, and let the Beatles’ voices swim through my head. The fourth track of side B came on and John Lennon crooned “there are place I remember all my life, though some have changed; some forever, not for better; some have gone and some remain. All these places have their moments with lovers and friends I still can recall; I know I’ll often stop and think about them. In my life… I love you more.” I quickly fell in love with the lyrics; in my mind, they were the epitome of perfect lyricism. I felt that no expression of love or sentiment about life had ever been so beautifully and eloquently delivered. The meaning I attached to this song’s words and the feeling that it filled me with still strike me with pangs of nostalgia and joy when I listen to the song, and I’ll never forget the epiphany of attaching emotion to words. This marked a beginning of learning about emotions through music.
Besides interpreting my own emotions, music has taught me how to empathize with others, because as I’ve gotten older, music has required me to attempt to understand different cultures and different people. In this way, people that are literate in music learn how to perceive the world around them differently. People that listen to music that is bold and vivid in its lyricism about political and social issues learn about these issues and, ideally, become more vocal about the issues; music encourages people to revel with each other in their shared humanity. When people become literate in music at young ages, they will find that music is an outlet and a tool for learning, thinking, and self expression.
Despite all of these benefits of literacy in music, ranging from basic cognitive skills to developing empathy for others, music education is poorly funded. Nick Rabkin, a senior research scientist at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, says, “I think the biggest reason for [the cutting of arts education] has to do with a misconception about the cognitive value of the arts. That for the most part, people think about the arts as things that are effective and expressive, but not academic and cognitive.” From my literacy in music and my research, it can be concluded that teaching music and encouraging literacy in music must be encouraged in schools and in households. Literacy in music helps people to read the word and the world.
"Despite White House Report Advocating Arts Education, Budgets Face Cuts | UCIRA." Ucira.ucsb.edu. University of California Institute for Research in the Arts, n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.
Tarbert, Kelsey. "Learning Literacy through Music." Oneota Reading Journal. Luther College & Deborah Public Library, n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.
Artist's Statement: Children's Book/PSA (Digital Story Alternative)
Instead of creating a digital story, I chose to create a children's book/PSA to spread the messages conveyed in my essay. I took this route because I had no interest in using a video modality to express an argument, but I was intrigued by how I might express an argument by utilizing visuals and short sentences. There isn't much on each page of my story. This was a deliberate choice; I wanted white space with graphic text and line drawings to catch a viewer's eye. I believe that the central argument of my thesis is hammered in my illustrations. The series of pictures creates a sense of urgency to act to improve musical education for literacy in music, and there is an homage to a scene of memory from my essay (the child imagining multiplication tables is an excerpt of personal experience). Overall, I think that my alternate mode of storytelling is effective, but I might have liked to spruce the illustrations up with handy-dandy, super-duper collage.