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Investing in Arts Education

A Look at Two Industry Leaders Advocating for Music Teachers of all Stripes

Photo: Courtesy of Music Teachers National Association

The Music Teachers National Association president, Martha Hilley, and CEO, Gary Ingle, promote the benefits of music education in their own ways.

In interviews, Hilley says she was inspired to major in music in college by a friend, even though, as her mother pointed out at the time, she hadn’t “touched a piano in three years.” Ingle started his career in music education with a doctorate in choral conducting. And from there it was a fast-track up the academic administrative ladder until he finally found himself the dean of a university.

But despite their different pathways, both are passionate about the importance of music education for people of all walks of life, from young children to grown adults. They have also been hugely influential within the music education industry.

Ingle is the CEO of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) and Hilley is the organization’s president. The group’s mission is to empower and support music teachers all over the country, promoting the benefits of music education and sustaining the profession, which they value as integral to society as a whole.

Martha Hilley, President, The Music Teachers National Association

When Hilley was still deciding what she wanted to study in college, she had narrowed her choices down to math or physics. But when she began studying music seriously, she realized music allowed her to practice these disciplines at the same time. “It gave me the opportunity to take math, which was theory, physics which was acoustics and how to listen, and piano, wrapping them all up into this wonderful package that was called music,” she has said. Indeed, studies have indicated that students who participate in a strong music program have higher standardized test-scores, including in mathematics, than their peers.

Ingle has been widely recognized for his advocacy for music education at all levels, spreading the word that music lessons can have a hugely positive impact on a person’s health and social life, in addition to the simple joy of music itself. Studies have shown that learning an instrument can help relieve stress and even enhance the autoimmune response, as well as fine-tune mental skills including reading and concentration. And this goes for adults as well as children.

But worryingly, in times of educational funding shortages, it is most often the arts programs that are the first to go. Ingle works hard to combat this trend, particularly as CEO of MTNA.

He has said that the best way to promote music education and music teaching as an industry is by working together, in a pattern he describes as “horizontal.” Instead of trying to improve as individuals, Ingle has advocated for organizations to partner with other relevant groups in order to lift one another up.

A particular problem independent music educators face is remaining competitive and profitable in an economy not always friendly to freelance workers. For music teachers operating out of their own studios, it can be hard to know exactly how much to charge and how to recruit and retain students. Ingle has recommended these teachers participate in continuing education, which can give teachers a competitive edge amongst their peers.

Gary Ingle, CEO, The Music Teachers National Association

Students and parents, he has advised, are willing to pay a premium for the highest quality music teachers. And the more knowledgeable and skilled a teacher is, the more able they’ll be to attract these kinds of students and, what’s more, keep them.

Fortunately, it doesn’t look like music education is going anywhere soon, even if it does occasionally run up against a funding problem.

Increasingly, music education is being used by professionals across a vast array of industries. Music is now utilized as an effective form of therapy for many, while music education programs are helping reform the juvenile justice system.

And it is the work of passionate teachers like Hilley and Ingle, supporting their peers and spreading the word, that has made this possible.

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