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Jerry Foust Speaks Out about Education

Jerry's Kid Side
Today we're talking with Jerry Foust about education and the arts. Recent cutbacks to funding in education have resulted in the decrease of the involvement of arts in education. For some, this could mean a complete lack of interest in academics as the arts help us to develop some core skills like critical thinking, decoding and the ability to generally relate unknown material to previous knowledge, experience or interests. Let's see what Jerry has to say about this.

KF(Kathy Foust): You've used your degrees in a somewhat nontraditional manner. What degrees do you hold?
JF(Jerry Foust): "Bachelor's in Music Education (all grades) from Butler University; Master's in Postsecondary Educational Leadership from San Diego State University. Currently finishing a second Master's in Music Education at Stephen F. Austin State University."

KF: You do quite a bit of work with children. Recent changes within the educational system have limited the involvement of the arts in public schools. How do you think this is going to impact future generations of students and educators?
JF: "California's education system was always the model for the world, but now very few schools have formal arts programs. As a music educator, I feel very strongly that music is its own individual, unique intelligence. And that kids (and adults, for that matter) get something out of music - performing, listening, understanding - that they can't get anywhere else. It makes me sad that, even though the Arts are considered a core subject in No Child Left Behind, music and the Arts continue to get short-changed.

In my current position, we serve about 1,500 kids a year with outreach programs. They get to come - some of them for the very first time - to our theater and see our professional shows. We see them fall in love with music and theatre and dance and technical theatre arts for the first time. It's pretty powerful."

KF: Since you do often work closely with children, you're able to see how music might influence them. What are the benefits that children might take away from their experience in your programs or from music in education in general?
JF: "The obvious ones are teamwork, focus, self-discipline, creativity, logical thinking, problem-solving, appreciation for culture and diversity. SELF-ESTEEM."
KF: What advice do you have for children and teens that have the desire to make music a part of their future career path?
JF: "Study hard, but never stop enjoying the creative part. And never lose sight of WHY you're making music. It's to give something unique to the world or to yourself." 
KF: What advice would you share with those considering going into music education as a career choice?
JF: "I realized - at the age of 40 - that our goal as music educators should be to give people the tools they need to continue a personal relationship with music for a lifetime. Not to win competitions, or get first chair, or even to necessarily make a living at it. But to enjoy it, understand it, learn from it, participate in it for the rest of their lives. How many people do you know who took piano lessons or played an instrument in high school STILL do? That means we're not doing something right. Right?

One of the things I've learned in my old age is that there has to be joy in making music. That's why I love my men's vocal ensemble. Every Sunday night, we come together to rehearse, and we have so much fun and work so collaboratively that the concerts we do seem secondary. I as the conductor have created an atmosphere where the process of music-making is as important as the product. And I have people who come BACK to music after years or decades away from it.

So I guess I would hope people choosing this path would do it for the right reasons. Those who do it for the right reasons create lifelong musicians, and are able to advocate for music in a way that trophies and competitions and forced private lessons can't."

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