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Celebrating Music in Our Schools Month: How Music Helped Me Advance in Education

Photo of Adair Johnson By Adair Johnson, Itinerant Communication & Language Specialist, Boston Public Schools

Beyond the mere lifting of our moods and daily spirits, music is often the conduit by which we are often transformed and inspired to achieve. I can personally attest to this belief because it has made a remarkable difference in my life for decades. In fact, as a kid who grew up in a family deeply involved in civil rights organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Music was always guiding our hearts, minds, and “feet” as we participated in community protests and ran the race to bring equality and justice to a particular challenge of the moment. As a youth president and state youth vice president of the college and university division of the Georgia NAACP, I recall learning many civil rights songs, such as Walk Together Children, We Shall Overcome, We Shall Not Be Moved, Oh Freedom, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around, Separate But Equal, Give Me That Old Time Religion, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, We Are The World, Lift Every Voice and Sing and other uplifting songs that inspired us as we fought for change.
Photo of 2016 Morehouse Glee Club

Additionally, it was music that served as the specific force that motivated me to select Morehouse College as my college of choice. As a freshman in high school, I was granted the opportunity to hear the world-renowned Morehouse College Glee Club from Atlanta, Georgia in concert and to witness the incredible precision of sound, remarkable decorum, extraordinary talent, united force of dedication and commitment, as well as the imminent expression of brotherhood, to which I wanted to be a part. To witness the great music produced by college students and to hear the diversity of majors, cities, towns, states, and countries from which each student originated left me somewhat flabbergasted but completely fascinated throughout my remaining years in high school. When the time arrived, Morehouse College was the only college to which I applied.

After being accepted and registering for classes during New Student Orientation at Morehouse, I could hear music in the air and I immediately made my way towards the music building to audition for membership in the esteemed Morehouse College Glee Club. I was accepted and sang with the organization during my complete matriculation in undergraduate study. The places that I traveled over the world, personalities that I met, friendships that were formed, and opportunities that emerged will remain with me throughout my lifetime.

It is through singing and traveling with the student singing ambassadors of Morehouse that I was also able to elevate myself to a higher level of discipline. In addition to my academic work, I learned that I had to attend two hour rehearsals four days a week, learn all of the music scores, know the history of the college well, and maintain good academic standing, in order to qualify to travel on tour with the Glee Club. I learned that, although I frequently missed class due to tours, I was only excused from class but not the academic work. This meant, to be a member of the Morehouse College Glee Club in good standing, I had to be focused and exhibit solid discipline by following the course syllabus, communicating with professors, adhering to timelines, submitting coursework from afar, and by returning to campus from tour several weeks later either on task or ahead of my classmates who were physically present in the classes while I was away.

Music, not simply the sound, beat, tune, voice used or instrument played, but the melody of relationships enjoined between and amongst such can transform individuals and groups. In fact, I can personally attest that through music, I have experienced collaboration, felt the inextricable power of bonding, and used its platform to leverage academic and professional networking For example, while on tour, I was able to interview and obtain a graduate fellowship to Columbia University for my first graduate degree, and to visit Boston and Harvard Universities for the first time in advance of my second graduate degree and eventual employment as a communication and language specialist with the Boston Public Schools.

"Music, not simply the sound, beat, tune, voice used or instrument played, but the melody of relationships enjoined between and amongst such can transform individuals and groups."
- Adair Johnson

In essence, music for me is magical. It can open doors, change attitudes and mindsets, transform societies, motivate students to achieve, lead mankind down paths to better understanding and good-will, and elevate our overall consciousness. That is exactly what I desire and hope to see happen this month as the district site coordinator of Music in Our Schools Month (MIOSM) in the Boston Public Schools.

Music in Our Schools Month is an annual event, founded by the National Association for Music Education (NafME) that takes place in March. During this celebratory month, administrators, students, educators, parents, and communities across America call attention to the importance of music in schools and society. The concert program event in BPS will feature the Morehouse College Glee Club, communicate the purpose of music in education, demonstrate outcomes of what quality education in music provides, and showcase a prestigious institutional option that more students may and should consider.

Through this teaching and learning concert, I aim to inspire the current generation of BPS students to achieve academically, think big when it comes to college and career preparedness, and consider all institutional types: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Traditionally White Institutions (TWIs) when entering the decision making process. Music has made a tremendous difference in my life and I trust it can do the same thing for our students. To that end, please join us for what will be a spectacular moment of music in our schools.

The Music in Our Schools Month concert will take place Thursday, March 16, 2017 in the Roland Hayes Division of Music of the O’Bryant School of Math & Science at 55 Malcolm X Boulevard, Roxbury, MA 02120. 

Adair Johnson is an Itinerant Communication & Language Specialist in Related Services. He provides communication based evaluative, clinical, consultative, and professional development support services in high schools throughout the Boston Public School District. Adair holds the Bachelor of Arts Degree from Morehouse College, Master of Science Degree from Columbia University, Master of Arts Degree from Harvard University, Education Specialist Degree from Simmons College, Education Specialist Degree in Education Administration & Supervision from University of Georgia and has completed studies for the Doctorate in Higher Education Administration.

UPDATE: The performance on March 16 was broadcasted live via Facebook.