- you can dance to it (it is somatic)
- it engages on an emotional or mood level
- playing is physically challenging
- it is intellectually engaging as you study history and theory
- it is socially engaging as you play with and for other people
And on and on: music is a whole, complete universe that challenges and engages you on virtually every level. I liked that. Philosophy, while fascinating, seemed too purely intellectual.
The reason I bring this up is an article I just ran across in Forbes about how students at university simply do not seem to be learning how to write. Here is how it opens:
The article goes on at some length to explain why no-one at university takes responsibility for instruction in writing. Of course, this should probably be done in high school, but that is another kettle of fish! So why is it so easy to avoid learning fundamental skills in writing, but the very idea, when applied to a music camp, is ridiculous? Why does the comparison work so well for the writer of the article?
I think it goes back to my observation about the differences between music and philosophy. In
Philosophy, as in English, History and probably the rest of the humanities, one can ignore basic fundamentals while constructing elaborate intellectual theories. In music, one cannot. If you cannot play a simple piece of music with some fluency, you will not be credited with being any kind of musician. BUT, and here is the rub, in many fields these basic skills have been denigrated as being part of a reactionary past that we have left behind. Just as, in the visual arts department, sketching the human figure may no longer be taught.
But there is something hidebound and traditional about music. As far as I know, all music departments still require all their students to take private music lessons and pass a playing exam at the end of the year. This may be being eroded around the edges--perhaps there are schools that have substantial electronic music programs where all you do is, in the immortal words of Deadmau5, "hit the space bar", but these are surely not the majority?
The wonderful thing about music in education is that it brings you face to face with yourself, I think. At some point you will find yourself all alone in a little practice room with your instrument and in front of you a little piece of music: perhaps a minuet by Bach. You are going to have to learn how to play that little piece: perhaps even memorize it. You will have to keep coming back to that little room until you do so. This is discipline and music is one of the best ways I know how to develop a personal sense of discipline.
Somehow people can go for years and years being unable to write simple prose. But when they are trying to play a piece of music the flaws and weaknesses and errors are very evident. It is not just that the teacher is pointing them out, is it? If that is the case then the solution to college is simple: just give everyone private lessons in how to write.
Of course, in order to have enough teachers to do that, you would have to fire nearly all the administrators.