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Editorial: Philharmonic at top of class for musical engagement

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The Columbus Indiana Philharmonic earns an A when it comes to music education.

While most people know the Philharmonic for the entertainment it provides with concerts and special events including next week’s “Salute!” concert, one of its missions is to connect children of all backgrounds to the arts and culture, and encourage them to make music.

Philharmonic Music Director David Bowden has his own personal mission statement: “Making music changes lives.”


The seriousness of the Philharmonic’s efforts to make an impact on students through music can be seen by the impressive tools in its educational toolkit.

They include a youth orchestra and children’s choir, concerts, classes, camps and visits to schools. Some are intended as introductory events, to teach children what the different instruments are and give them an opportunity to try them. Others are geared toward children who have already begun playing instruments, and to develop their skills.

Children experiencing joy from playing instruments and making music certainly is one result that the Philharmonic hopes for, but it also believes connecting students to music has additional benefits.

Getting children interested in music early is one way to extend the life of the Philharmonic. Symphonies in other cities are dying out and ceasing operations. Keeping the Philharmonic going adds to the quality of life for residents in this community.

Additionally, research on music education that Bowden presented to the Rotary Club and World Presidents’ Organization indicates:

People who make music have an IQ 10 percent higher than those who do not.

Students who have been involved in music score 120 points higher on the SAT that those who have not.

Students from a low socioeconomic status who have had music training are 217 percent more likely to graduate from high school and enter college.

“Music trains the brain to learn,” Bowden said.

That’s important because of a regional effort to increase high school graduation rates and help more adults earn a college degree.

The Philharmonic has made a big investment in music education. For example, in the 1990s it spent three times as much on music education as any other orchestra of any size in the country. Currently it spends more than almost any other orchestra of similar size. The Philharmonic spent 15 percent of its budget on education last year — more than its spent on marketing, administration, fundraising or resource development.

What the Philharmonic does for music education in this community is vital because money often is a prohibitive factor for schools to purchase instruments and hire music teachers. The Philharmonic is an additional resource that augments what schools can provide.

The fact that the Philharmonic is able to do this is impressive considering that only 20 percent of its annual budget is met by ticket sales. The organization relies on donations to support its budget and programs, music education included.

Columbus benefits greatly from the educational efforts and entertainment the Philharmonic provides. Ensuring that the organization has the support it needs financially and with volunteers is something the community can rally around.

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