Page 5 - Menlo Magazine: Summer/Fall 2018
P. 5

 From the
Head of School
I have a confession: I am a member of the low brass. More specifically, in both middle and high school, I played the tuba in the orchestra and marching band. While I also participated in choir, drama, and dance in middle school,
playing the tuba is what I most associate with my arts education. My experiences in the marching band are memorable—wearing the long-sleeved polyester uniforms complete with faux ascot and white cotton gloves that were always too small, marching as the “O” in “ALOHA” in the 1985 Rose Bowl Parade, playing at every high school football game for four years, and being revered for the cool factor that came with being a marching tuba player.
I don’t play anymore and haven’t for years, much to my children’s delight. Tuba isn’t really the kind of thing that one carries forward into adult life: it isn’t practical. But I do carry a great many of the strengths from my experiences with the tuba and with the arts more generally— like confidence and comfort in front of an audience—and these characteristics help define who I am today. I recognize the value in my life from an aesthetic appreciation for the complexity and beauty of art being created and performed whether it is musical or not. And, as many musicians will tell you, translating musical notation into motor functions and music in one’s head develops a sophisticated brain circuitry that is beneficial in other ways.
“The arts fundamentally matter. This
is why they’ve historically been and continue to be a core part of the Menlo educational experience and why they are essential to a well-rounded education...”
But the truest impacts of art in my life strike at the core of who I am. Art instructs us to be
empathetic. Visual arts teach us to see and observe life differently than we had before. It gives
us new eyes. And once acquired, those eyes can never return to their previous orientation.
Learning about color and shading changes how you see the world, which then shifts how
you see others. Ensemble arts such as drama, choir, and music fundamentally teach empathy
through listening and watching: students pick up on subtle cues about when to play, how long
to hold a note, or how to respond to another character. Empathy is what is required to “robot-proof ” our children for the future. And the arts offer one of the most potent avenues for the development of empathy in our curriculum.
The other valuable aspect of art is that it is fundamentally iterative in the way that most other subjects in school are not. Dramatists are constantly trying new ways of delivering a line or reacting to a moment onstage, photographers are taking one shot and developing it 12 ways for maximum effect, and tuba players are playing with different tones, volume, and emphasis while seeking the greatest way to benefit the ensemble. Though we would be likely to label this “creativity” rather than “failure” (or at least “trial and error”), in truth, it’s a bit of both, and each is vitally important to the development of our students.
In a student world where perfection increasingly squeezes out creative solutions or, worse, solutions that don’t work out in the end, the arts are a relief. And in a world where an increasing number of college students want job skills and are moving away from the humanities as a result, what is being missed entirely is that creativity, comfort with iteration and failure, and empathy ARE the job skills of their time.
The arts fundamentally matter. This is why they’ve historically been and continue to be a core part of the Menlo educational experience and why they are essential to a well-rounded education that prepares students for life beyond Menlo and an ever- changing world.
Than Healy Head of School

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