Ball or Bands: Football vs. Music as an Educational and Community Investment (John Gerdy)

I wish I had written this book.  But it’s probably best that John Gerdy wrote it because he’s an athlete, an athletics administrator (NCAA and SEC), a former physics teacher and current performing musician.  He’s the perfect author for the subject.

I suppose I should mention that I don’t get the football craze (which is somewhat of a faux pas around here).  And I really don’t get why football and sports seem to be more important than academics in high schools and universities.  It’s not that I’m against spectator sports and athletics (although personally,  I prefer watching things like tennis, fencing, equestrian events,  etc. to team sports).   Of course, I LOVE going to concerts (and we have a LOT of great concerts in Ann Arbor and Detroit), but even I don’t get to as many concerts as there are football games.  And it’s only in my dreams that students practice enough to do as many performances as they do sporting events.    The team sport trend starts in first grade, when soccer is de rigueur, with several weekly practices and games at variable times (which impact lesson scheduling and piano practice time).

The reason I love Ball or Bands is because Gerdy identified an important paradigm shift that every music teacher and parent deciding on extracurricular activities needs to understand.  In the 20th century, participation in sports was seen as a way to prepare students for the industrial workforce, where management was hierarchical and workers followed orders (just as team players follow a coach’s orders).  However, the 21st century economy is based on technology, where work is more often done in autonomous teams that work independently and creatively (like jazz combos or duet teams).  Gerdy makes a research-based case that music study and performance runs circles around team sports in terms of preparing students for future employment and that schools and communities should consider this when making funding decisions.  He’s not saying that we should cut out sports, as we need both athletics and music in our lives.  He’s simply pointing out that the funding balance and general emphasis for activities should be appropriately distributed where it will provide the most benefits, which means a more equal distribution between sports and music and arts.

That being said, I really should be practicing.  However, I think I’ll hop on my bike and head into town and see what’s up at the Art Fair.