Music education can be the key to higher education.

At a time when some school districts are trimming music education from their budgets, educators are finding that students who study music achieve higher SAT scores.

“It’s the only activity that uses both the right and left brain,” said Michael Bodolosky, fine arts chairman and director of instrument studies for Richland School District. “Music education makes a well-rounded child.”

Bodolosky added that medical schools often look for liberal arts students because they’ve developed a dexterity in their fingers that can help them become surgeons.

Bodolosky, who has taught band instruments to students in grades five through 12 since 1976, said musical activity boosts self-esteem.

“It’s not instant gratification,” he said.

“We’re not keeping score. There’s no win or lose. They progress over the years.”

Music also develops discipline in math, science and foreign languages.

“Music is a communications tool,” he said.

“It’s a universal language.”

Bodolosky said that ancient cultures might disappear, but their music lives on.

“What would a ceremony like the Olympics be without the music?” he asked.

“Music is physical and psychological. It gets you to move and sets the mood. Look at commercials on TV and radio. You hear, ‘I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener’ and you want a hot dog.”

At Richland, Bodolosky believes there is a strong band, orchestra and choral program, but it won’t stay that way without help.

“It’s up to the parents to keep it at the forefront,” he said.

“We can’t let it slip away.

Bodolosky said music is not only important to the performers but to the consumers as well.

“Music is important in public education,” he said. “It’s not fluff.”

Bodolosky also is director of bands at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

Elizabeth Good, choral music director at Westmont Hilltop High School, agreed that national statistics show music and choral students score higher on SATs.

Good also said one of the most important skills that music develops is training the mind to focus.

“It centers the mind to work harder to achieve a goal,” she said.

“Students who learn to do that can improve their grades.”

Good, who teaches choral music in grades nine through 12 and who has taught music for 27 years, said that Westmont works within a three-pronged program.

“Academics, arts and athletics,” she said. “It’s the three-A program, and it’s a good one.

“We try to keep it balanced between the three.

“Students in music are high achievers. Music also helps the average students by teaching them to listen and focus their mind.”

In addition to helping them get into college, music also can help young people land a job in corporate America.

“At the forefront in corporate America is teamwork, focusing and being creative – all developed in music,” she said.

Good said Westmont’s three-A plan is not original. It originated with the ancient Greeks, who considered the arts important.

“In all great societies, the arts are an integral part of culture,” she said.

“A society in decline eliminates its arts. That’s a great argument for keeping them.”

The local teachers’ comments are echoed by music educators across the country.

Mike Huckabee, governor of Arkansas and chairman of the Education Commission of the States, said that an education in the arts is not expendable, extraneous or extracurricular, it is essential.

“Without it, a student is not getting a full, complete and total education,” Huckabee said at the opening session of American Symphony Orchestra League’s annual conference this past summer.

Concert pianist Lorin Hollander said music touches the fundamental and universal aspects of our souls.

“Music is the most powerful force we know to prepare compassionate leaders, nurture empathetic families and inspire responsible citizens of the world,” Hollander said.

Ruth Rice can be reached at 532-5052 or

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