The Crucial Role of Music in Classical Catholic Education

Len Insalaca instructing during music class

Music is an essential component of a classical education. That’s why here at Holy Spirit Prep, our students begin learning how to sing in Kindergarten. As students continue their education at HSP, they will grow in their knowledge of music literacy as they participate in daily music classes and learn to play a wind or percussion instrument. By performing in the band, choir, or even Schola Cantorum, students also learn the importance of dedication and teamwork. HSP Director of Fine Arts Len Insalaca shares how a comprehensive music education enables students to make connections in the classroom and in the Church.

Picture a world where music doesn’t exist. Imagine waking up in the morning and going through your entire day without any type of music in it. No music on the radio, played overhead in stores or restaurants, only talk radio in the car on the drive to work, nothing on television, and no film scores that bring our movies to life. Have you ever watched film clips before the music was added? Boooring! There would be no music in Mass, no whistling, no humming, no dancing… not even singing a simple tune in the shower. It is extremely difficult to fathom such a place. Music is such a huge part of our everyday life. Without it, we could not live life to the fullest. It is a blessing from God – even the angels in heaven sing constant praises to the Lord!

“The Mozart Effect”

An HSP lower school student learns to play the tambourine in music class

An HSP lower school student learns to play the tambourine in music class

In order for music to take shape in society, it must be nurtured from an early age. When my children were born, upon leaving the hospital they were each gifted a CD from the state of Florida titled “The Mozart Effect.” The reason for this is that numerous studies have been conducted that show the positive effects of classical music, especially Mozart’s, on brain development and cognitive skills.

This is why many schools add a robust music program to their curriculum. There are so many benefits that are connected with music education, especially instrumental music, including higher standardized test scores, higher college acceptance rates, and more scholarship money awarded. Did you know that the major with the highest percentage of acceptances into medical school is music? Granted there are far fewer music majors applying to med school than, say, biology majors, but this speaks volumes. A study conducted by the Texas Music Educators Association showed that since the SAT reverted to a 1600-point grading scale in 2017, All-State musicians in Texas scored an average of 272 points higher than the state average, and 230 points higher than the national average. Studying music, it would appear, does make you smarter.

An HSP high school student plays the bass during a band performance

An HSP high school student plays the bass during a band performance

How Music Impacts All Other Subjects

Music connects us with all the other subjects. It is divided into beats and subdivisions of beats which directly relate to fractions. The overtone series in music mirrors a mathematical harmonic series. In physics we learn about sound waves and the production of sound itself, the speed of sound and the frequency between the waves. Music is geometry and physics. In history, we have the opportunity to learn about a culture’s music and art. This allows us to experience history in a deeper and more present way.

We enjoy programmatic music that draws inspiration from books and poetry. It also grants us cultural literacy which allows us to step into a larger and more diverse world. Music is history and literature. We learn a new language when we study music – the universal language. It gives us a way to communicate with those around us and allows us to share the love of Christ and his Church with everyone we meet. Music is language and love. From Gregorian chant to modern-day praise bands, we unite this all-encompassing form of communication with our living faith.

How Music Connects Us to God

While all of these reasons to appreciate music are wonderful, it is in the connection to God that we truly see the importance of music. The angels praise Him with songs, and we are called to do the same. The creation of something new allows us to draw closer to our Creator. When we create, we are, in a small way, imitating God and all of his creation.

An HSP lower school student plays the clarinet during band rehearsal
An HSP lower school student plays the clarinet during band rehearsal

At HSP this is our greatest mission – to seek a profound connection to God and to express this connection in the way we reach out to the world. Music helps us to be better communicators. Music is not only a core subject, but these lessons in music may be found at the core of education itself.

Most importantly, studying music nourishes our souls. Music is eternal!

"When the trumpeters and singers were heard as a single voice praising and giving thanks to the LORD, and when they raised the sound of the trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments to 'Praise the LORD, who is good, whose love endures forever,' the cloud filled the house of the Lord."

Len Insalaca
Len Insalaca is the Director of Fine Arts at Holy Spirit Preparatory School.
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