Teaching to a different tune


Since 2000, one year of a Visual and Performing Arts class has been a high school graduation requirement in California.

At Granite Bay High School, the Visual and Performing Arts classes range from Guitar to Photography, spanning several levels from beginning to advanced, offered in many of the subjects.

Several of these Visual and Performing Arts classes are centered around music, and though none of the classes are focused specifically on things like  music theory or music history, they still teach their students how to enjoy music.

While taking private lessons is a viable option if someone wants to really immerse themselves in music, taking classes in high school beyond the one year requirement also comes with its benefits.

“I think it would be better to get credits in school (than take private lessons),” said Lawrence (LJ) Matias, a junior at GBHS. “I took beginning piano freshman year and advanced piano sophomore year, and that really helped me out with music as well as giving me credits in school.  It kills two birds with one stone.”

Besides the requirement that it fulfills, music also has positive benefits cognitively and emotionally.              

According to a study in the American Psychological Association journal, participating in organized music lessons improves academic performance and one’s IQ.   

But besides the actual measurable effects music can have, it can also help students get away from their other classes.

“(Music) is an outlet for kids, especially at Granite Bay with all the pressure that’s on them from all of the hard classes they are taking,” said Terry Stafford, a guitar teacher at GBHS.

Music also helps others socialize more with people who share the same passions as them.

“Music has definitely made me more social,” Matias said. “It has allowed me to meet some of my greatest friends right now.  For example before the talent show freshman year, I only knew a few people, but after I got out there, I met some (new) people.”

After playing music for a long time, it eventually becomes a part of you.

“Music is my outlet,” said Mika Sakata, a junior at GBHS who has played the piano for 11 years. “Whenever I feel sad or overwhelmed, I sit on the piano and just play whatever I feel like playing.  It helps me refocus and encourages me to keep going.”

With all the benefits of music, it is a wonder why schools haven’t been requiring more years of music.  

Elementary schools have just recently started to heed these studied benefits of music. Last year, the United States Senate passed an act naming music and arts as core subjects in elementary schools. 

While this is a step in the right direction, it also doesn’t lengthen the required amount of time a high school student has to spend in music.

However, some think keeping it at a one year requirement is the right decision.

For one thing, making it a requirement would require more music teachers and classes.

“For music to be a core class where it goes year-round,” Stafford said, “I don’t think it could work here because of the clientele and what we have to offer. We have… a lot more AP classes than we ever did before.  I know and realize that you can only get so many classes in a semester.”

Because most Visual and Performing Arts classes don’t offer a weighted GPA, this factor of a non-weighted class can play a big part in deciding whether or not kids will take more than they are required to. They are forced to pick between pleasure and academics.

Besides the tumultuous task of picking classes, a lot of other students  are weary of performing in their music classes.

“I think the classes offered at Granite Bay (are good),” Sakata said.  “It’s just that students are (sometimes) not interested or motivated in taking the classes because maybe they’re scared they won’t be able to do it.”

Even though all of these obstacles exist, music should still be a part of every student’s’ lives.

“(It’s) upsetting to me (that) schools have lost all of their music programs,” Stafford said.  “It’s a detriment to their school and to their kids. Kids need things in their lives that bring pleasure, and music is that.”