Sixteen-year-old pianist and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award recipient Jingxuan Zhang feels strongly about advocating for elementary music education. Jing is featured on From the Top’s broadcast from El Paso this week and recently wrote a letter to his governor in Indiana to address his feelings about the importance of arts education.
“I want to show [the governor] that music is a great part of our lives and that it demands focus and determination that builds character…. I want [him] to know that music is a very powerful way to communicate to others.”
Jing shares his letter to Governor Mitchell Daniels of Indianapolis August 23, 2009…
Dear Governor Daniels,
I’m Jingxuan Zhang, and I am a 16-year-old pianist from Westfield, IN. I’m writing to ask for your support of elementary school music education and programs. This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to perform on the NPR radio show From the Top, which is dedicated to celebrating outstanding young musicians from across the nation.
I went to El Paso, TX, for the recording session and a special three days. Two events stood out as especially significant: one was the actual performance, and the other was the leadership workshop for performers after the show. The workshop was a true learning experience, during which I realized that music possessed the power to influence others. As an arts advocate, I decided to “exert my power” by asking you to increase funding for elementary school music education.
I know this idea seems absurd considering the economic recession we are suffering from; however, this idea came to me when I was working with the other young musicians who were on the show with me. We all talked about how we were all great students and how studying music gave us the necessary focus to accomplish great things both in school and in the arts.
From that, I realized what they said was true. I personally practice piano for six hours a day during weekdays and holidays and three hours during the week. Without extreme dedication, perseverance, and ambition, we would not be what we are today.
Of course, people say you need to be talented to achieve high standards in music, but I think music is not there to “find” talent in people. I think it is there to teach us a valuable lesson on the basic characteristics we need to succeed in life.
Having said that, I think it is extremely important to expose young children to a myriad of musical instruments when they are young to pique their interest in music. My parents introduced me to the piano when I was five, so I think elementary schools can act as a guiding force for children who do not have a musical background.
Now, most elementary schools have only a keyboard or two from which the music instructor teaches. But with increased funding, we can explore new dimensions by buying mini violins, flutes, or drums for the children to learn from. This new environment will allow these children to ferment a love for music when they are young.
Research has shown a positive correlation between kids who study music and their performance in school, and I think encouraging elementary school students to take up an instrument would be a wonderful opportunity to engage them into a world full of creativity and endless magic.
Thank you for reading this letter, and I hope you will support the increase of music education funding.