The Moral Imperative for Music Education – A Call to Action

Symposium_ICONSMark H. Cohen

photos by Jim Snyder

As economist Dr. George Ford stated during his presentation in Little Rock, AK this past weekend, “The optimal amount of arts in education is most likely not zero.” And so the stage was set as speaker after speaker set out to prove the moral imperative for music education. I almost wrote that they spoke “in defense of music education,” but what they really did was establish a common platform emphasizing how critical is the teaching of music to children.

Speakers included researchers, practitioners and advocates who presented research findings, real world results, and the establishment of a business case. That’s right, a return on investment (ROI) for the value of music education, not simply music for the sake of music. Not that we aren’t cool with that, but as a foundation trying to incite change, an honest-to-goodness business model has us tickled pink.

We can’t possibly do justice to the topics covered by our panelists. My gosh, even they could only scratch the surface of their research and experience. Over the coming weeks, some of the speakers will provide us with blog posts with additional and deeper insights. In the interim you can find out more about them below.

As you take this all in, Todd and the board of directors would like to ask you to consider what YOU can do to help us build upon the momentum of the Symposium and specifically to:

  1. Keep and support music education in our elementary schools.
  2. Work with supplemental and complimentary elementary level music programs.

So what can you do?

  1. Check out our new advocacy site –
  2. Spread the word about us to your friends and colleagues via email, social media or whatever floats your boat! Remember we are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and YouTube. Please use the hashtag #SOHF everywhere!
  3. Make a one time or recurring monthly donation to the Foundation to enable us to fight this fight for our children, our future, and the love of music!
  4. Contribute to this blog.

Interested in learning more about the Symposium panelists?

Kevin Ellman.

Kevin Ellman made it personal by telling us that “music saved his life.” CEO of Wealth Preservation Solutions, LLC, Kevin has worked to oversee investment portfolio design and management for the firm’s private wealth clients for over 25 years. Prior to entering the business of financial planning, Kevin enjoyed a successful career as a professional drummer who toured and recorded with major stars and was a founding member of Todd Rundgren’s Utopia.

Todd Rundgren.

Todd Rundgren set the stage by extolling the virtues of music education. Songwriter, recording artist, video pioneer, computer software developer, conceptualist and interactive artist, Todd is our guiding light. One of our key takeaways from Todd was that “music is something we share with each other.”

Margaret Martin.

Dr. Margaret Martin shared stories from the trenches of the not-for-profit she runs, The Harmony Project, which brings quality music instruction and ensemble playing to children who would not have access to it, complimenting music education with supporting resources and opportunities, and fostering a community of families that actively support their children’s growth and development. One such story was of gang members in Los Angeles coming upon a young child playing violin for money on a street they “owned.” After listening to the child for a few minutes, one by one, every member dropped money into the violin case. Through her work with the Harmony Project Margaret learned that “Music education improves children’s lives by making them more successful academically and in their social interactions (working with other and self-confidence).”

Nina Kraus.

Dr. Nina Kraus has proven the biological benefits of music education through the study of the biology of auditory learning. She has discovered that an individual’s life in sound shapes auditory brain circuits, from the language you speak to the instrument that you play. Overall, Dr. Nina has found that “playing music engenders lifelong improvements in how the brain processes sound across one’s lifespan, a cascade of benefits for language, learning, and literacy.”

George S. Ford

Dr. George S. Ford is an economist who is co-founder and chief economist at the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy Studies, a Washington based non-profit organization. Simply put, Dr. Ford made the business case for music education, providing an ROI model that the Foundation and others can use to prove the economic benefits of music education. Dr. Ford has found “the proven physical and social benefits of music education ultimately result in substantial economic assets that manifest throughout a person’s lifetime.”

Carl Mouton.

Carl Mouton is a music educator and band director at Maurelle Middle and High Schools in Arkansas. He also performs regularly with groups throughout the country, oftentimes including his students. As a person who has built a career around educating and leading children in musical endeavors, Carl shared that “individual students experience substantial and life-changing positive results from active participation in music education programs.”

Mary Leuhrsen.

Mary Leuhrsen was a professional flutist and music educator who is now executive director of NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Foundation and NAMM’s Director of Public and Government Affairs overseeing lobbying and advocacy efforts to advance access to music education. Among other things, Mary stated “what we’re really working for is opportunity. Access and equity.” And we concur.

Were you at the Symposium? Let us know what you think. 


Links to event photo albums on our Facebook pages: Jim Snyder, Ronnie Temple.

Mark H. Cohen is a digital strategist and marketing BoardCohentechnologist. He serves on  the Board of the Spirit of Harmony Foundation as Treasurer. He runs a digital and integrated marketing agency, Colloquy Digital, LLC