Diversity in Music

My children’s school held a showcase concert last night featuring the best of the music department.

The performances ranged from classical to jazz to swing to folk music to rock to heavy metal. Some pieces were by famous composers, others were written by the students themselves. Students dressed for their performances in clothes ranging from torn jeans and t-shirts to suits and ties and floor-length gowns.

The mood was supportive and celebratory. It recognised that the musical achievement of a student interested in heavy metal is no less than that of a student interested in classical piano. It celebrated the diversity of student achievement as well as the achievements themselves.

How different from my own high school’s showcase concerts, filled with little beyond classical and religious music, with the odd show-tune thrown in. I distinctly remember the shock in the auditorium once when a group of students not sanctioned by the school showed up and played rock-n-roll.

If you didn’t sing in choir, you didn’t sing. If you didn’t play in the marching band or the orchestra, you didn’t play. I wonder how many students decided they didn’t like music because the only music they were allowed to make was the sort they didn’t identify with. I wonder how many good musicians let their own music die because it wasn’t valued by the school and the adults around them.

My kids enjoy diverse music. Though they both play instruments, neither of them is likely to go on to become a professional musician. Still, I’m thrilled their school encourages students to explore their own music, and recognises that musical skill can be demonstrated in an ear-splitting heavy metal guitar riff just as effectively as in an operetta.

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