The importance of music education in high school

Michael Poff directs his junior high band practice.
(By Tyler Comiske/Student contributor)

Student contributors

Hidden in the corner of Cranberry High School lies two large classrooms that praise self-expression and self-discovery. These aren’t ordinary classes, though. These rooms are part of the Cranberry High School music program. The two classrooms belong to Michael Poff, band director, and Preston Yoder, choir director.

Music classes across the country have suffered from cutbacks or have been cut from the schools curriculum entirely. When looking at the classes a school offers, you’ll see courses such as math, English, science, and band. With public schools needing to make the tough decisions of budgeting for the year, they are often faced with cutbacks and cutting certain programs that may be deemed unnecessary. The schools are unable to cut “core” classes, which leaves electives – such as band and chorus – to suffer the cuts.

However, in many people’s opinions, these classes are just as important as “core” classes.

When asked about the benefits of a student being involved in the music department, Yoder said, “Music offers something a standard academic class doesn’t.”

Yoder then went on to tell how he believes music gives students a “well-rounded” education and gives a sense of teamwork similar to what you would feel from being on a sports team.

One thing Yoder and Poff both mentioned was self-expression in the music department. They believe music is a great outlet for students.

Poff said, “Someone in a shell is able to temporarily express themselves.”

He believes that to many of his students their instruments are their voices. He can recall many examples from his years of teaching when students who would hardly speak a word would come to band and play phenomenal music with their instruments.

With Cranberry being a relatively small school, one may think that a program such as this may struggle with members, funding, and so on. However, after talking to Poff and Yoder, the music program is very successful. There are many students who get to express their musical interests in plenty of ways.

Not only does Cranberry offer students band and chorus, they also offer electives such as piano and guitar. They even have extensions of the traditional band and choir such as Jazz Band, Select Choir, and Women’s Choir. Yoder said that the school has been extremely supportive of the music department as well.

The only setback of being a small school actually benefits the students. Because there aren’t as many students to fill up all the spots in the band, students are forced to adapt the music to fit with them. They do this by inserting extra parts from other instrument sections into their own music. For example, a saxophone player may receive an insert of music from a horn player’s music if there aren’t enough horns to cover the parts. This helps the band cover more parts and have a more complete sound. Another way for the band to cover parts is for students to learn new instruments. Poff calls this the “grunt work” the band must do to be successful. Poff and Yoder believe this extra work helps students become diverse and more successful as a whole.

It isn’t just the directors that see the benefit of music in a student’s life, however.

When asked about being involved in the music department, Lindsay Perry, a Cranberry High School senior in the band, stated, “It helps me escape from my everyday life.” She later said that music has “helped me get more involved.” Perry continued by mentioning her involvement in the high school’s musical, which caused her to reminisce about creating friends and good memories. She even stated that her best moments were during the week of the play.

Perry believes that students should participate in the music program saying, “It allows you to learn more about yourself and what you can do as a person. It allows you to make lifelong friends.”

When asked if she recommends students be involved in the program, Gabby Allman, a senior in Cranberry High School’s choir program, answered by saying, “Absolutely, grow in yourself and find yourself.”

The music doesn’t stop at the classroom door for these directors and students. Not only does Cranberry offer options of classes aside from band and chorus, there are also options outside of their direct class schedule, too. Cranberry’s band students have the opportunity to play music at graduation such as “Pomp and Circumstance”. Also, some students have the opportunity to play in the pit for the school’s musical.

Each class offers two concerts, one at the beginning and one at the end of the school year. These concerts may be accompanied by instruments and students who may not normally be part of the program. Just this past winter, the choir concert contained one song that was accompanied by Perry and Kendra McCoy on the flute.

Along with the concerts, students are also given the chance to perform in other settings, such as the Veteran’s Day program when both the band and choir perform.

This is part of the goals of Yoder and Poff. When talking about their hopes for students to diversify and express themselves, Yoder stated, “Our vision is the same.” Both the band and chorus work well together allowing students to have the best opportunity to succeed. This is great news for students because, as Poff said, music helps you find “what makes you, you.”


Danielle Peterson and Tyler Comiske are students at Cranberry High School and members of Cranberry Chronicles, the school’s journalism/publications group.