In recent weeks, schools throughout Wisconsin have released varying fall return plans amidst COVID-19. Despite overwhelming evidence and research on the benefits of a music-enriched classroom, some of these plans do not include a strong focus—or any focus at all—on music education. 

The reality of our current situation is that we are all being asked to make some educational sacrifices or adjustments for the health and safety of others, and parents are being thrust into the driver’s seat of their child’s education like never before.

Parents, as you dive into your school’s return plan, make sure you are examining it with an eye towards the arts. How is music instruction being modified for safe play amidst COVID-19? If you find that music instruction is non-existent, I encourage you to consider the benefits of music in your child’s life and be an advocate for his or her musical growth throughout this upcoming school year.

In some instances, this might mean supplementing the educational experience currently being offered within your child’s school district.

But don’t be daunted by the prospect of welcoming music instruction into your home. Regardless of your child’s musical achievement level—or yours!—the following combination of both structured and unstructured activities can prove beneficial in numerous ways.

If your child is already an instrumentalist of singer, encourage 40 minutes of activity, 4 times per week in the following ways:

  • 10-12 minutes on warm-up, technical, and sound-producing exercises
  • 10-12 minutes on assigned music from school or private music teacher
  • 10-12 minutes on a child’s aspirational or challenging music
  • 10-12 minutes on listening to a variety of new or favorite music

If your child has not been exposed to performing ensembles, look for the following:

  • Activities that develop creativity including jotting poetry or lyrics, exploring acapella apps, or improvising rhythms with homemade instruments
  • Online resources from respected arts organizations such as the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, or New York Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Virtual, recorded, or live-streamed concerts or musicals, followed by intentional discussions with your child about what they saw and heard

In addition to keeping musical skills sharp, music’s cognitive functions will serve as both a welcomed diversion and enhancement in the midst of COVID. More importantly, your children will continue on their journey to becoming better musicians, enhancing their skill sets in other academic areas, and, in general, growing into a more well-rounded individuals.

—Dr. Louis Menchaca is chair of Concordia University Wisconsin’s music department. He directs the university’s Jazz Band, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, and Chamber Orchestra.

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