By Nancy Schriner
We all want our children to be successful at school. We know, however, for them to actually succeed in life they need to do more than just “get by.” They need to excel!
Can fine arts meet this expectation of excellence? Former Secretary of Education, William Bennett stated, “The arts are essential elements of education just like reading, writing, and arithmetic . . . Music, dance, painting, and theater are keys to unlock profound human understanding and accomplishment.”
Take a moment to think about what you do on the weekends or when you have free time. Do you listen to music, or attend a movie? Do you watch popular TV shows like American Idol, or So You Think You Can Dance? Did you attend First Friday in Milledgeville or Friday Fest in Macon? Did you see Dog Days of Summer at the Macon Arts Gallery? If so, you are experiencing art!
Appreciation for the arts is a gift that parents can give their children that will last a lifetime. The arts provide a place for expressing feelings and emotions, and an arena in which to share talents with others. Arts, along with many other disciplines, teach the value of teamwork, encourage perseverance, and promote pride in a job well done. Elliot Eisner, professor of education at Stanford University, cites other benefits:
vthat neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know
vthat the arts offer experience we can have from no other source
vthat the arts’ position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important
Fortunately for Middle Georgia, there are local schools that see the value of arts education. One such school is Stratford Academy in Macon. Kathleen Medlin, Director of Advancement, expounded on the varied opportunities Stratford provides: “Children from age three to seniors in high school can study visual arts, music, and drama. The upper school offerings for art include photography, sculpture, painting, and AP art. Music offerings include choruses, pep, marching, and concert bands while drama students can participate in several theater productions throughout the year.”
For after-school experiences in the arts, an excellent venue in Macon is the Academy of the Performing Arts. Sylvia Haynie, theater director for the Academy, is passionate about the benefits of arts education for children. Classes are available to improve auditioning skills and to provide instruction in vocal and instrumental music. “Night classes and programs are very popular,” she says, “students who participate in art programs and live productions learn to be confident in front of other people.” she adds, “This confidence will serve them well in the future at job interviews, in civic organizations, and at church. These students will be life-long supporters of the arts. Today’s performer will be tomorrow’s patron of the symphony.”
Many of the benefits of arts education have been stated, but parents and children need to be aware of the following concerns:
vparticipation in the arts requires a strong commitment
vpractices, performances, and the transportation required for each will take considerable time and effort
vpaying for classes, providing costumes or uniforms, buying instruments, and other supplies can be costly
Would Shakespeare want your children to experience the thrill of a successful theater production, a beautiful painting, a harmonious concert, or a dance that moves audiences to tears? “To be, or not to be?” Shakespeare would most definitely say, “Your children should be . . . in the Arts!”