US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Speaks about Arts in the Schools

I’m a proud member of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM). In the September 2009 issue of the AFM’s journal, International Musician, there was a wonderful article about Secretary Duncan’s speech at a SupportMusic Coalition teleconference hosted by NAMM (the association of the international music products industry). According to the article, Secretary Duncan had sent a letter to school and education community leaders “urging that arts programs remain a core academic subject in schools.” The letter states:

At this time when you are making critical and far-reaching budget and program decisions for the upcoming school year, I write to bring your attention to the importance of the arts at a core academic subjects and part of a complete education for all students. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) defines the arts at a core subject, and the arts play a significant role in children’s development and learning process.

Duncan also discusses how arts in the schools help students to improve confidence and creative thinking skills, which are especially important for children from economically disadvantaged families.

As a violin teacher, I’ve had the opportunity to work with children of all different ethnic and economic backgrounds. In particular, I’ve seen how important music can become to children from economically disadvantaged families. I worked at one community partnership program where a survey was given to the parents asking them how music has positively affected their children. Many of the parents reported that their children had improved performance at school and increased their ability to focus. In my own relationships with students, I’ve had several children tell me how music helps to get them through their day. It’s perfectly clear to me. The arts are an absolutely essential component of a well-rounded education.

During the teleconference, a question was posed to Secretary Duncan asking him how education and community leaders and parents can ensure that schools provide students with access to quality arts education. He said there are three things that local advocates can do. First, there needs to be better recognition and rewards for successful arts programs. Second, there needs to be more support for creative and collaborative partnerships between arts groups and nonprofits creating opportunities for students. Third, parents need to push for and demand arts programs in the schools.

If you would like to read Secretary Duncan’s letter, visit the US Department of Education’s website at For more about the teleconference, visit

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