For Arts in Education Week, CYSO Music Director Allen Tinkham shares his thoughts on the influence arts education had on him as a young person and why he believes that experiencing and participating in the arts can create a more compassionate world.
Why are the arts important in education?
The arts bring everything together, reinforcing the study of all other subjects. Even thousands of years ago, the ancient Greeks knew that the arts were a necessary component of any well-rounded education. The performance of music, for example, has been shown to activate more parts of the brain than almost any other activity. It’s no accident so many smart, successful people played music as children.
What does arts education teach us that’s different from other subjects?
The arts provide the best exercise in lateral thinking because art is metaphor, and so the history of the arts is a history of the evolution of thought. Since prehistoric times people have looked for more direct and powerful ways to express themselves, and in every culture in world history there have been arts whose development reflected that culture’s political, social, religious, scientific, and aesthetic ideals and controversies. Through the arts we learn about people and the world in which they lived, challenging us to walk in their shoes and inviting us to live in their heads, if just for a bit.
Why did you decide to be an arts educator?
I think it’s in my blood. My parents were music teachers, not that they ever pushed me to become a musician or a teacher, in fact they advised me against it! Of course, I got what my favorite teacher used to call “the disease,” and became a musician and later a teacher. It’s powerfully fulfilling for me to make music with young people. I look back at the experiences that most shaped who I am, and I realize that if I provide compelling enough experiences, I can affect not only today, but possibly many future generations, in a positive way. You can put up a building or a monument, but how many years will that last?