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Forte: Music education cannot be overstated

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Debra Akerlund, Yakima Symphony Orchestra violin.

Like most of my colleagues in the Yakima Symphony Orchestra, my musical education started in elementary school. In fourth grade, I got my first three-quarter-size violin and, with my parents’ encouragement and support, started orchestra.

I have been playing ever since. I have played thousands of symphony, chamber and solo concerts in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Far East. Whether it’s playing, teaching, singing or conducting, a career in music can lead to a rich and interesting life.

I believe music is an essential part of a well-rounded education. Unlike any other subject, music builds character, discipline, dedication, leadership, responsibility and teamwork at a young age. Children can start to learn as early as 3 years old. It is important to be exposed to music at every level: elementary, middle school and high school. Orchestra, band and choir are vital programs that any and all students should have a chance to participate in.

Playing an instrument or singing in a choir ignites imagination and is an outlet for creativity. It requires talent and instills confidence, patience, listening skills and self-

esteem. And it’s fun! The National Association of Music Merchants Foundation asserts that music education facilitates student academic achievement and advanced math scores and boosts reading, language arts and critical thinking. All of these skills are common among good citizens and high achievers, and all are qualities a community needs in its young people.

It is no small feat to have a school orchestra/band/choir/music program and keep it going, even in ordinary times. Its importance cannot be overstated. Music teachers are hard-working professionals and set the standard for excellence. They must be supported as many of their students go on to join the Yakima Youth Symphony, Yakima Symphony Chorus or Yakima Symphony Orchestra. These organizations enrich and enhance our quality of life. They help keep our society sophisticated and civilized.

Many of us in the Yakima Symphony teach and perform in public schools, colleges and private studios. It’s another source of income but, more importantly, we share our passion for music because many times teaching improves our own practice and performance. We all benefit.

• Debra Akerlund plays violin for the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. She and other symphony members write this weekly column for SCENE. Learn more about the symphony at

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