Ms Jacinda Euler, Principal
Tomorrow night, Girls Grammar will host its 20th Gala Concert. The magnificence of the performances, the strength of our Music community and the quality of our music education at will be evident to all. For our Director of Instrumental Music, Mr Mark Sullivan the Gala will also represent the culmination of a twenty-year career at Girls Grammar, eighteen of them as Director; a turning point for staff, students and their families and certain to contribute to a particularly special evening. There was an excited and expectant air about the School today as girls rehearsed for their performances.
Leah Shafer, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s publication ‘Bolstering the case for Music in Schools’ traces the links between musical training and executive function. Fortunately at Girls Grammar there is no need to ‘bolster the case’ for Music in our School but it is interesting, nonetheless, to remind ourselves why we value it so deeply.
Quite apart from the obvious benefits of nourishing the soul, bringing joy to both the music maker and the listener, music education brings wider benefits, particularly within the context of exceptional scholarship. Shafer writes, ’If educators want to develop critical, creative thinkers who can set and accomplish their own goals — and who can use those skills to strengthen their math and reading skills — they may want to take another look inside the music room…… For a child to play an instrument, she needs to stick to her goals, pay sustained attention, and be flexible enough to switch back and forth between tempos and styles’. These habits draw heavily on executive function skills and cognitive processes that include problem-solving, goal setting, and flexible thinking. Importantly, music doesn’t merely require executive function skills, it builds them (Shafer, 2016).
To inspire life-wide learning at Girls Grammar we encourage girls to dare to dream, without fear of failure, and to test the unfamiliar through music education. Offering diverse opportunities and experiences enables broad participation, including through our Inter-house Choral Competition, now in its 60th year and this week won by Griffith House for 2016. Importantly, the music programme also ignites sparks of particular interest and develops rare talent, providing for the highest levels of expertise in musicianship. The soloists and our extraordinary String Quartet, for example, will make this abundantly clear at Gala.
In The Story of Music (2013), Howard Goodall wrote, ‘Not that long ago, music was a rare and feeble whisper in a wilderness of silence. Now it is as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. How on earth did that miracle happen?’ Tomorrow night we look forward to the miracle of music in some of its finest forms when our Girls Grammar musicians perform at the 2016 Gala Concert. It will undoubtedly be Out of this World.
Goodall, H. (2013). The Story of Music. London: Chatto & Windus.