Guest essay: Myra Nicol Williams ... Music Scores! and more

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Music Scores! and more

On Nov. 7, the Daily News published a guest commentary by Alan Korest, in which he said: “It seems clear that music is a powerful force, and one that can have significant positive impact on academic achievement and life success.”

This statement is supported by extensive scientific research. Learning to play a music instrument improves spatial, verbal and math skills. Alan proposed that Collier County create a public/private partnership to pilot programs in music.

As I read Alan’s article enthusiastically, I realized that the kernel of such an organization already exists in the Naples Music Club.

The Naples Music Club was founded in 1965. The organization soon provided monthly concerts and a radio program of classical music. In 1970, the club initiated an annual music scholarship competition that has granted over $500,000 to more than 750 students. In 1979, the club led a successful effort to reinstate the Collier County Public Schools orchestra program.

The club’s outreach programs expanded in 2001 when member Clifford Saby donated money to provide instruments for middle school students and violins for the first years of the pre-K literacy/violin program. This program, now known as Music Scores!, was created by Judy Evans, a well-known music educator. As Korest said, the program has been remarkably successful in improving kindergarten preparedness of economically needy children.

Music Scores! is now being taught in three of the 14 Title I elementary schools where 89 percent of the students are classified as economically needy. The standardized test scores of the third grade students in these schools are 25 percent lower than scores in non-Title I schools. Our near-term goal is to measure the impact of Music Scores! and expand it to all pre-K Title I sites as its positive impact is demonstrated. The long-term goal to help close the performance gap through training in playing a music instrument.

The Naples Music Club is the major funder for Music Scores!

In 2008, a gift from the Haegg family established the Haegg Scholarship Awards. These awards provide private lessons for needy middle-school students who have never studied privately. Three new recipients are identified annually. It is a dramatically successful program that has transformed the lives of many of these students.

An instrument not discussed above is the piano. In fact, studies show that learning to play the piano gives the strongest intellectual gains compared to all other instruments. In 2012, the C.K. Fernando family made a gift that enabled the creation of an after school piano program in four Title I schools. One of the pilot schools in Bonita Springs was so impressed with the impact of the program that they purchased sufficient keyboards to offer the piano course in the regular school day.

These outreach programs affect only a few hundred of the almost 45,000 students who could benefit in the Collier County Public Schools. The needs are urgent and the opportunity enormous. However, a major commitment of resources from the citizens of Collier County is required to accelerate the expansion of these proven programs and to pilot new ones.

The Naples Music Club is a 100 percent volunteer organization with a passion to make a difference through music. Our partners include almost all of the music organizations in Collier County. In addition, our board of directors consists of a wide spectrum of leaders in the arts, sciences, business and information technology.

The organization has now been in existence for almost 50 years. The ability to define, pilot, and implement major collaborative programs has been demonstrated. We invite the public to become members of our organization (www.naplesmusicclub.org) and to become involved in this exciting project of enabling people of all ages to achieve the intellectual benefits from playing a musical instrument.

Readers may contact Myra Williams at musicinfo@naplesmusicclub.org for more information.

Myra is a retired biophysicist and pharmaceutical-industry executive, a classical pianist, and an active volunteer in music and in science and math education. She is president of the Naples Music Club and serves on the national board of the Success for All Foundation and the Golandsky

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