From STEM to STEAM – How Piano and Voice Lessons are Relevant for 21st Century Education

The past five years has seen a rise in emphasis of STEM focused education. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The approach grew out of the need to equip students with skillsets for the 21st century marketplace – namely an deeper understanding of math and science and how to apply it to real life problem solving.

Just a few years ago, a new letter has been added to STEM, “A”, changing STEM to STEAM. The “A” stands for arts.

A study published by the American Society for Engineering Education in identified key characteristics of STEM education:

  1. Setting out real-world, engaging problems
  2. Students apply math and science concepts to approach the problem
  3. Teaching approach is inquiry-based and student led
  4. Implementation of engineering design process as a problem solving technique
  5. Focus on team-based problem solving to foster important skills such as communication, critical thinking, creativity and teamwork.

Any person who has taken a music class, piano, voice, or has played the cello or violin in a school orchestra, will know that the five characteristics of STEM education are readily found in every lesson, practice and performance.

Reading notes and breaking them down into rhythm, melody, and then adding the dynamics to deliver what is written on paper into performance is a live application of math and science to deliver a product. Working through a piece with an instructor, or band members requires inquiry to find the best approach, critical thinking, teamwork and a lot of creativity.

Ruth Catchen, is conducting a study of incorporating art into the curriculum at an aerospace academy. She writes, “I am beginning to open doors through which students will realize their own creativity and at the same time, learn valuable academic skills.”

Yes, piano, voice and cello lessons give us a chance to experience the joy of putting the song of the soul into music.

But there are also practical benefits like brain development and now, giving yourself and your family the “A” in 21st century STEAM education.

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