Ensure their well-being, and down the line, everyone’s mental and physical health, literacy levels, school success, and employability improve. This is why community development efforts are often focused on investing in young families early and often.
But, as more of these communities are learning, a policy-based approach with economic supports (housing and employment programs, for example) can only be part of the solution. In addition to access and opportunity, strong families also need to feel a sense of belonging and connection. In other words, to thrive, our communities don’t just need employed and housed families. We need curious, secure kids and well-supported parents who are engaged with and feel connected to their community.
Business leaders call it ownership; sociologists call it sense of place. But, whatever you call it, it affects everything in a community from public health to employee retention.
Music builds strong families.
Making music builds the connections that nourish a sense of place. In fact, community music programs can be deliberately designed with that goal in mind: to help families cultivate those connections and to help kids feel a sense of belonging.
Great Bend’s early childhood music program is a great example. Based on an internationally acclaimed model called El Sistema, it is designed first and foremost to create a sense of community for participating kids and families. While the intensive, daily program is a sequential skills class focused on ensemble participation — or teamwork — the program’s impacts go far beyond ear training and music literacy.
For example, musical experiences like stopping and starting, slowing down and speeding up, and recognizing repeating patterns (such as verse/chorus) provide young children with practice directing and modulating their behavior. And children who are more practiced at directing their behavior are better prepared to enter school and succeed.
But in addition to exploring critical STEM concepts like ratios and fractions, we’re also learning about listening and leadership.
The cross-cultural appeal of childhood music, and the elimination of barriers to participation like registration fees, encourages participation from all pockets of our community. And that resulting diversity teaches what our community values, and why, in ways that include not only our students, but their siblings, parents and grandparents, building connections that transcend income, race, and religion.
The exact connections that build strong families and nourish strong communities. But don’t take our word for it. See for yourself. Check out one of our kids’ performance videos. You won’t just see kids performing musically.
You’ll see parents and grandparents supporting in all kinds of ways, both behind and in front of the camera. You’ll see different kids from different worlds collaborating with far more than just their instruments — even a baby Yoda or two.
Because music makes strong families. And at Great Bend Center for Music, we make music that builds community.