A Data Point Supporting Arts in Education

My husband spilled the beans. And before I knew it I was involved in our High School musical production of the Sound of Music.

Dusting off my violin, I joined students in the pit to help provide the sound for the musical. The early rehearsals were rough and my admiration for my colleagues in the music/theater department increased exponentially as they guided, counseled, encouraged, and coached students through learning the music, songs, lines, choreography, and the staging. As with all productions, there was definitely that thought, “Will this ever come together?” But the students and my amazing colleagues never gave up, adding hours to their rehearsals and working together through difficult spots and troublesome glitches. Over time more notes were being played (in tune even!), beautiful songs were sung, lines were remembered, and a story was coming to life.

I love observing students immerse themselves in the creative process. Any student involved in acting, singing, playing, technical crew, or stage crew is positively affected. For those new to the process the growth is most remarkable. They gain new skills and confidence. Most importantly, they are filled with love and appreciation for music. In the hallways they hum or sing the songs from the musical all day long. In the classroom they share the latest triumphs from rehearsal or the challenges to be overcome before show time. And they exude happiness.  Indeed, there is scientific evidence that art and happiness are “inevitably intertwined” in that “people invariably report that art making is a source of joy for them” even when using art to facilitate the grieving process of a loss (Malchiodi).

photo courtesy of Roslyn Dotterweich

Finally, we’re running the show. Of course, it isn’t without flaws but to the audience it’s seamless. For all involved there is a thrill with the completed product and a true sense of accomplishment. I am impressed with how far the students have come and how wonderful the final product is. Of course, the benefits of such a production are not limited to those involved.

Students who attend the show are astounded. And those who came grudgingly with the claim “I don’t really like that kind of stuff” approached me in the pit absolutely gleeful. They reported “This is amazing” or “The music is so good” or “I’m so glad I came”.

Though shocked I was at the diminishment of some of my own skills since my symphony days, there was great gratification in playing again. I have been reminded of the soul filling joy that music (and dance and art) has provided me in my own personal life. It was the balancing thread that carried me through college and graduate school. I am determined that my resurrected violin will no longer remain silent.

There are scientific studies to support that participation in the arts lowers stress levels and improves overall well-being of individuals (Hopper). Using fMRI, scientists have even demonstrated that the creative process of art making actually enhances functional connectivity in the brain (Bolwerk). Who doesn’t want a better functioning brain?

My Sound of Music experience is another small piece of evidence as to why I, as a science teacher, advocated the “A” for arts in the development of our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program, making it STEAM.

This is my plea that whenever the chance arises in your community, please support art programs, funding of the arts and encourage student participation in these programs.


  • Bolwerk, Anne, Jessica Mack-Andrick, Frieder Lang, Arnd Dörfler, and Christian1 Maihöfner. "How Art Changes Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity." PLOS ONE:. PLOS, 1 July 2014. Web. 07 June 2016.
  • Hopper, Elizabeth. The Link Between Creativity and Happiness | HealthyPsych. HealthyPsychcom Site Wide Activity RSS. N.p., 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 07 June 2016.Ho
  • Malchiodi, Cathy. Art and Happiness. Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 27 Sept. 2011. Web. 07 June 2016.