Fine Arts Impacts Students:
I have always loved the fine arts because of the discipline it takes to achieve great works. It parallels my favorite quote by Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” It takes discipline to develop an examined life; it is how greatness is achieved. Qualities like wisdom and justice take years of practice to develop, as do all worthwhile things. The fine arts are also a great catalyst for students to begin to open their minds. The expression of human existence represented in the fine arts is comprehendible to anyone open to receive it. Often young people think they are not wise or smart enough to enjoy the fine arts. In my experience of exposing students to the fine arts, like the symphony or the ballet, they are inspired to realize they have felt the same way Beethoven or Tchaikovsky felt when they composed their masterpieces.
Opera Represents the Possibility to Overcome Even the Worse Tragedy:
When music or performance transcends its form, it evokes a kind of aesthetic emotion in the audience. That is to say, emotion evoked by the expression of the human experience conveyed by the music, performers, or the composer. This expression is universal and independent of the descriptive qualities of the medium, such as the lyrics in a song. Most operas I’ve seen or heard are in languages I don’t speak, and yet I understand what is happening because of the expression, which is common to most of us in our human experience. In the shared experience of human expression, it is possible to overcome adversity, or rise to a higher level. This quality is what I always aspired to achieve in music, and why I love the opera so much. It is at the opera I’ve experienced it most.
Ballet Embodies Emotion, Music, and Contemplation Through Refined Movement and Grace:
Expression of human experience can be perceived by many senses. Ballet is visual in its expression, and transcends the limits of how music and emotion may be perceived. I had an American Sign Language professor by the name of Barb Dunaway at Wright State, who is a remarkable professor. Once in class, at our request, she showed us how she interpreted a musical number from a theater production that was being performed at WSU. She moved her hands and body, expressing more with her movement than the words of the song. Ballet is like the sign language for the arts. Dancers express many human experiences with their bodies. This is especially relevant for students that are experiencing the arts for the first time. They often understand the expression conveyed in ballet without any training for appreciation.
The Symphony Contrasts the Commonality of Human Experience with The Discipline of Mastery:
I have always loved the symphony from the time I was a little boy. I was fortunate to have a family who exposed me to the symphony at a very young age. Exposing students to the arts has a lasting impact on the perceptions of themselves. It is the symphony where we usually begin bringing students because the human experiences expressed through fine works are so easily identifiable to someone that has never experienced an orchestral performance live. Bach originated the 1, 4, 5 chord progression. This progression is extremely common in blues and rock. My son, Quinn, has absorbed this love, too.
At my first piano recital, Quinn was sitting on the edge of his seat while I performed. I had missed a few notes in a Minuet written by Mozart. He grimaced and my piano professor, who knew Quinn, asked him to comment on my performance. He said, "He was pretty good, but rushed the ending." Dr. Wolfe, a gifted music professor at Sinclair, asked him if he would like to show the audience what he meant. Quinn, without hesitation, came up to the piano and played the piece flawlessly, showing me up. He had only heard me practicing at home and didn't yet know how to read music. Exposing young people to the masters of classical music can leave a lasting impression.
Philosophy Is At the Core of All Knowledge:
I have been a student of philosophy my entire adult life, even before I took formal classes in college. I have often heard other disciplines relegate philosophy to an art form. I guess one may consider the ability to construct a well-thought-out logical argument or the ability to think critically an art form; however philosophy is at the core of all knowledge. All sound science has a philosophical approach. I think the study of philosophy is paramount for students to succeed in college and beyond.
Although I have taken many philosophy classes, I was lucky enough to have profound and enlightened philosophy professors like Megan Edmonds at Sinclair Community College and The University of Dayton, and Dr. Donovan Miyaskai at Wright State University. They championed a blend of lecture and discussion, dismissed traditional standardized testing, and had us contemplate and discern knowledge through reflection and well-thought-out arguments. It is this model that is at the core of my ideals in the transformation of education for elementary school-aged children. No two students learn the same way, and if they cannot discuss and restate ideas they are learning in class, they often won't learn them. Memorizing details isn't a very effective way to learn. Studying philosophy does not give a student answers, but teaches them to distinguish good questions.
When a student can distinguish value from their own processes, they are likely to succeed. Philosophy is at the core of any student leadership training, and a life-long passion for me.
The Visual Arts Transcend Race, Religion, Gender, and Country:
The painting pictured on the right side, third down of this page was painted by Kanayo Ede. He is from Nigeria. It isn't necessary to know where he is from, his gender, religion, or race to appreciate his art. The expression transcends those limits of society. When students have the chance to experience fine art in person, they are often moved and inspired. If you ask them if knowing where the artist was born, or what their race or gender is, was important to their experience of viewing the art, they often laugh at the question. How much of our culture and society think those questions need to be answered before we look at the character or value of individuals? This is a good lesson for students when they are considering the limits of these labels.
The Theater Reflects Our Humanity:
Theater incorporates many elements of storytelling, and often is a reflection of our culture and society. Great theater goes deeper than that and reflects the core elements of being human. It is in the theater that I've seen the depths of human experience, from the heavenly bliss of being in love to the worldly reality of betrayal and loss, and everything in-between. Shakespeare has transcended his time by expressing humanness. His heroes were never clearly heroes, and his villains were never clearly villains. Humor, music, and physicality are often expressed in theater. Although I have always enjoyed film, theater has a dimension that film will never achieve. The films about Shakespeare's plays are not as impactful as the live performances, even if they are performed by an amateur theater company.
My son loves the theater. He loves to get dressed up to go, and always has many questions when the play is over. It's sad that theater is often struggling in our communities. A community cannot thrive without the arts! I once did a project on the physics of harmony in a physics class. The arts are not arbitrary. Perhaps they should change the STEM emphasis to STEAM, because the arts are equally important in how human brains develop.
Below is a short film I made for an honors project about Shakespeare. My son loved it and asked me to include it on my site.
Madame Butterfly pic: http://www.birmingham365.org/event/detail/441695780/Madame_Butterfly