Recently, I had a conversation with someone and they asked me what I did for a living. I told them that I was a piano teacher. Their response was that they didn't really hear of anyone doing that anymore and that career is "old school." This made me a little sad. Why is teaching piano considered "old school?" This point was later re-emphasized when I was listening to an accomplished pianist talk about his life last week. He reminded the audience that the role of music and arts education in general has been minimized and shown little to no value in our society in the last several years. This got me thinking, "Why?" "Are we as an arts community undervaluing the work that we are doing?" Also, "How are we valuing ourselves and what we provide and contribute to society as a whole?"
I'm told, when you think about investing and investments in general, you're supposed to evaluate certain things like, price, risk factors, longevity, growth, return on investment, etc. For the purpose of this exercise, I want to first define what an investment is and how an investment works. Then, apply some of these same financial investment concepts to music and arts education investments.
WHAT IS AN INVESTMENT?
In the financial world, an investment is defined as "...an asset or item acquired with the goal of generating income or appreciation. Appreciation refers to an increase in the value of an asset over time...An investment always concerns the outlay of some asset today-time, money, or effort-in hopes of a greater payoff in the future than what was originally put in." (Investopedia.com) I believe arts education is an essential part of making an investment into our future in society as a whole. It has been well documented that arts education contributes to more proficiency in academic areas. It has been shown to impact language arts, mathematics, etc. Studies have shown that it also can improve analyzing and problem-solving skills. That's all good. But I also believe that arts education helps create more empathetic and sympathetic people. It offers access and opportunity for positive self-expression. To me, this means a more positive development in social and emotional areas in individuals. I think this inevitably benefits society as a whole.
HOW AN INVESTMENT WORKS
The financial world explains the "act of investing has the goal of generating income and increasing value over time." (Investopedia.com) The short term and eventual long term benefits of arts and music education I believe out-way the initial costs. Exposure to the arts can foster creativity and passion. It inspires us to grow. More importantly, can we put a price on enjoyment? Although it's never too late, how many adults have we come across that have voiced their regret of not taking piano lessons or some sort of music lessons when they were younger. Many of us see the connection between studying and participating in the arts and improved social and emotional skills. The arts in general and arts education should be viewed as an integral part of our society. In my opinion, arts education is definitely worth the investment.