Blog Post


The Art of Education 

The study of music teaches more than just notes

By Rachel Brown, Knoxville Opera Intern

KnoxOpera-Oct2013The Ancient Greeks believed that music had a profound effect on the human body, personality and way of life. Music was thought to be a reflection of the balance of the universe. They regarded it so highly that it was included in the core curriculum that every person studied. Everyone in the society had an intimate knowledge of music and its influence. The Greeks had it right. We, as Americans, take pride in the fact we have a democratic government, and that we got this idea from such ancient peoples. Why, then, do we not follow the Greeks’ example in their reverence toward music? Most Western music that we have today has Greek roots-clearly they were doing something right.

Those who are in favor of cutting funding from public school arts programs cite several reasons for their actions, not the least of which is the necessity of budget cuts to keep academic programs alive. To those people, I offer this response: is a musical education not equally important as a strictly “academic” education? Consider, for a moment, what musical pursuits offer children: the discipline of learning and becoming proficient on an instrument or with their voice, increased confidence, a creative outlet, the ability to read music and the knowledge that hard work does, in fact, pay off (eventually). In addition to the basic knowledge that all children acquire during their schooling, I have to wonder, is this knowledge not equally worthwhile? Unfortunately, many people do not realize the importance of this aspect of education, and it is therefore pushed to the side and labeled “expendable.” I would love to live in a society that regards musical endeavors as equally important as purely academic endeavors.  I would love to live in a society where all children are exposed to music at an early age, and then are able to pursue it to their hearts’ content.

“Consider, for a moment, what musical pursuits offer children: the discipline of learning…, increased confidence, a creative outlet, the ability to read music and the knowledge that hard work does, in fact, pay off (eventually).”

As a Voice major, I go to as many student and guest voice recitals as I possibly can. As I sit, mesmerized, in the audience and watch these singers, I am repeatedly struck by the realization that what they do affects me in a profoundly emotional way. There have been several recitals when I have been almost in tears because of the beauty of their performance. More than that, these recitals are a reminder to me of why I do what I do. It is very easy to become disheartened and discouraged in my particular field. Why would a person who was a good student all the way through school and who had other opportunities in academia choose to remain a music major? I do it so that I can affect an audience the way that these singers have affected me. I am reminded of the incredible, awe-inspiring experience that is live performance.

This is the type of experience that I wish for everyone, especially children who are being introduced to music for the first time. Luckily for me, Knoxville Opera provides this exact experience for thousands of children every year.  Beginning on January 7 and running through January 17, Knoxville Opera will present an abbreviated, English (but still staged and costumed) version of Donizetti’s romantic comedy, The Elixir of Love, to 18 area schools. This program is completely free to the schools, children and parents. In addition to guides for teachers about the opera, this program also offers the exciting opportunity for students to speak to and ask questions of the performers and Maestro Brian Salesky. But this is just the tip of the iceberg of the education and outreach programs provided by Knoxville Opera. It also offers an Opera 101 program, an opportunity to watch the rehearsal process of productions, seminars on all things opera and the Rossini Festival in the spring. In addition, thanks to the generous support of the organization’s sponsors, Knoxville Opera offers the opportunity to see a free dress rehearsal of each opera, exclusively for students. More information on these opportunities can be found at

Rachel Brown is a sophomore Vocal Performance at UT interning with Knoxville Opera. For more information about Knoxville Opera, visit or call 865-524-0795.

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