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Phoenix Symphony, ASU launch music education initiative

The Phoenix Symphony has partnered with ASU Preparatory Academy on a new education initiative, Mind Over Music, aimed at integrating music into the science, technology, engineering and math curriculum, known as STEM.

Symphony president and CEO Jim Ward shared his thoughts on the initiative with families Oct. 2 at ASU Prep, where the symphony’s string ensemble presented “The Science of Sound” to illustrate how music can be used in the classroom.

Mind Over Music, he explained, is part of a new mission the symphony adopted in 2010 “to provide the joy of music as a catalyst for helping Arizona become the best place in the nation to live and to play and to work.”

The key component of that mission is “provide educationally sound music programs that will strengthen our next generation, resulting in a creative work force.”

John Huppenthal, state superintendent of public instruction, thanked the symphony for its commitment to “enriching our student’s lives with music,” adding, “The very best research now tells us that the arts are critical to the development of the whole child and that the integration of the arts and sciences educates each child more expansively and more powerfully.”

Myriam Roa, the superintendent of Phoenix Elementary School District No. 1, added, “We are firm believers that music and the arts are a vital component of the curriculum and in driving overall student achievement. Our students will benefit greatly.”

Each year, the Phoenix Symphony reaches 65,000 children in 290 schools statewide, Ward said. Mind Over Music “will help us expand that number and propel our mission forward.”

With the launch of this initiative, he said, the Phoenix Symphony has become the first symphony in the nation “to create a comprehensive, school-wide model that integrates music into STEM. In essence, we’re taking STEM and turning it into STEAM by adding the A, the arts.”

ASU Prep teachers and symphony members have worked together to develop a curriculum that, Ward says, gives students “the unique opportunity to see the world through the lens of music” — using musical intervals instead of textbooks worksheets to teach ratios, for instance.

Ward went on to note that research shows that “music has a profound cognitive and development benefit and when integrated into other subjects, music can and will raise student achievement across the curriculum.”

The hope, Ward told parents and students, “is that ASU Prep will emerge as a model site for music integration so that in years to come, as we bring new schools into the program, we bring them here first to learn from your teachers and administrators.”

“So you are part of a new movement. You are part of innovation. You are part of something that is not being done anywhere else in the United States of America.”

Reach the reporter at ed.masley@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4495.