Welcome to March and Music in Our Schools Month. The purpose of MIOSM is to celebrate music education in our schools and raise awareness of music's important role in the development of a well-rounded student. Music educators across the country will be celebrating Music In Our Schools Month. Arts education is important to the overall education of every child.

To quote Dan Rather, the legendary CBS News anchor, "Music is exciting. It is thrilling to be sitting in a group of musicians playing (more or less) the same piece of music. You are part of a great, powerful, vibrant entity. And nothing beats the feeling you get when you've practiced a difficult section over and over and finally get it right. (Yes, even on the wood block.) Music is important. It says things your heart can't say any other way, and in a language everyone speaks. Music crosses borders, turns smiles into frowns, and vice versa. These observations are shared with a hope: that, when schools cut back on music classes, they really think about what they're doing - and don't take music for granted."

Music engages the brain in ways that no other subject does. It inherently teaches and develops the necessary 21st Century Skills that employers are seeking in today's work force. It focuses on "doing," as opposed to observing, and teaches students how to perform, literally, anywhere in the world. Employers are looking for multi-dimensional workers with the sort of flexible and supple intellects that music education helps to create. According to the Education Commission on the States, one in three of today's school-aged children will hold an arts-related job at some time in his or her career.

In music, a mistake is a mistake; the instrument is in tune or not, the notes are well played or not, the entrance is made or not. It is only by much hard work that a successful performance is possible. Through music study, students learn the value of sustained effort to achieve excellence and the concrete rewards of hard work.

Perhaps author C. M. Rubin said it best: "If you have been through the complex, interactive, dedicated, soul-searching process that comes from playing a role in a dance, musical or theatrical production; if you have embraced the discipline, resourcefulness, inventiveness, passion, and persistence it takes to create an original manuscript or work of art - then you will know what it means to have used all of your brain and you will be better prepared to compete in the global economy."

By educating the heads, hearts and souls of young people, a comprehensive arts education program will provide our kids the tools to add value in work and in life by becoming excellent thinkers, empathic connectors and passionate contributors in the modern world. Now, more than ever, our kids need quality music education.

To close; singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist Jewel sums up why we teach music: "Some people think music education is a privilege, but I think it's essential to being human."

We thank you, the community, for supporting the students in their efforts to be exemplary musicians and for your continuing support and encouragement of your local school music programs and educators.

(Styer, a vocal and instrumental music teacher at Mount Carmel Area Junior-Senior High School, is president of District 8 of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association. PMEA encompasses all schools in a nine-county area including Bradford, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga and Union.)