Mind Over Music

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Mind Over Music is a model in which teachers are trained to integrate music into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts. Phoenix Symphony President and CEO Jim Ward and Mark Dix, Phoenix Symphony musician talk about the model.

José Cárdenas: Mind over music is a model in which teachers are trained to integrate music into STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math, concepts. We will talk to two guests about the model, but first here is a little about what the mind over music program is all about.

Woman: To give you one example of mind over music, it was with the second graders and they were learning the scientific inquiry process and how to form a hypothesis. They were able to examine the cello through the lens of a scientist and how it operates. What was really great about that lesson was that students were given the time and the space to develop that critical thinking. And that's one thing that's missing from k-12 education today is that there is so much emphasis placed on learning the right answer because we're so geared towards testing and students are given very little time to just explore their way to the right answer. Or in some cases the wrong answer which eventually gets them to the right answer. But with mind over music, they're given that space within the classroom to do that.

Teacher: Jacob, was that a high pitch or a low pitch?

José Cárdenas: Joining me now is Jim Ward, Phoenix Symphony president and CEO. And Mark Dix, a musician involved with the mind over music program. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte." Jim, before we get into the details of the mind over music program, major announcement this week about your new conductor. Tell us about that.

Jim Ward: It's fantastic news. We have just announced our new Virginia G. piper music correct is Tito Munoz. He comes to us out of France, but Tito actually grew up in Flushing, Queens, and went to the same schools and broke on the national scene with the national symphony orchestra and has conducted with Cleveland and great orchestras around the world and we're very, very lucky to have him with us.

José Cárdenas: And you can tell from the pictures on the screen he's a young man but quite accomplished at a very early stage in his career.

Jim Ward: Absolutely. He's a young gun. We would like to say he's an up and comer and a lot of competition around the country to land him and we're very, very lucky that we chose him and he chose us.

José Cárdenas: The program we're going to talk about in a moment in more detail is just one of a number of outreach programs that the Phoenix symphony has. How will he play into that? Is this an area of interest for him?

Jim Ward: Absolutely. He is very committed to both education and community outreach in a number of ways. He's very committed to the next generation of artists and children and through education but also in our other programs and I just might add we'll talk about mind over music but we have a great program in health and wellness called the B Sharp Health and Wellness, funded by the Walton family foundation that allows, not only to go into classrooms but to go into hospitals, to go into homeless shelters, to go into Alzheimer's treatment facility that we're expanding into and thanks to the Walton Family Foundation we're able to do that and Tito is committed to doing all of those activities as a part of an engagement with our Phoenix community.

José Cárdenas: And Mark, number of innovative programs going on at the Phoenix Symphony in terms of outreach. Nobody else has done this in the country?

Mark Dix: That's right. I think the historical model for symphony orchestras, our education, big concerts where kids and community are bussed in to see us perform in our hall or to go to the schools with the smaller groups. This program we're really directly, Mind Over Music we're in the classroom working directly with the teachers, not so much with the model to go in and teach about Mozart's birthday and specifically the orchestral field but to find out what the teachers are trying to teach in their classroom.

José Cárdenas: It's not like you show up and show people what the music is. There's a lot of planning that goes into this.

Mark Dix: Tremendous. And that's the real learning curve for both the musician like for myself who have, I'm trained in viola, I'm not trained in writing poetry and other science concepts so I need the teachers' wisdom and how they're teaching a fourth grade class and the teachers need my wisdom, how to creatively bring my art form into the classroom to heighten their electricity and interest into what they're trying to teach.

José Cárdenas: Now, I want to come back to this to discuss more of the details, what was the thinking behind this particular program? Because as Mark indicated, it's not just to show them this is what a viola looks like and this is the sound it makes. It's something different, tied directly to education.

Jim Ward: Exactly. This is really a response to the needs of the community.

José Cárdenas: And while we're talking, we've got pictures on the screen of what's going on.

Jim Ward: As we went out into the community and discussed opportunities and ideas, we got a clear idea back from the community that we needed to find new ways to teach STEM and we could leverage music in that unique way but we also needed to prove the efficacy of what we were doing. This is an entirely ground-up program. We're the only American orchestra in the country doing this, where our musicians go in with the teachers and create these brand-new curriculum, leveraging music to teach STEM. But we've created a longitudinal, quantitative study where we're testing test groups and control groups, we're testing children and teachers, and even in the first year of our testing, we're in the second year right now, we saw demonstrable improvements in the test group, 18 percent increases in improvement in test scores, leveraging music to teach STEM. And because of that, we've proved the efficacy of the program and have it funded through this pilot program, time frame and we're very, very excited about that.

José Cárdenas: Let's talk about your partner, ASU Prep.

Mark Dix: Wonderful school on Seventh Street and Fillmore.

José Cárdenas: An inner city school so to many people that would be a particular challenge.

Mark Dix: Absolutely. I think some of it has to do with just breaking down the barriers between an inner city school and an arts organization, that we are there not just to give concerts but we are to come in and work directly to serve their needs. But the kids, teachers have been tremendously receptive and for sitting down at the table and figuring out how to do this in the classroom, the teachers have been very welcoming. To have new faces, professionals coming into their classroom with our instruments to perform but it's the learning curve of seeing how the kids can grasp onto -- one class I did was about the planets for fourth grade and so I had a piece of music that had depictions of the planets and played some of those excerpts, so you could see that this concept of what are the attributes of Mars and what does that make you feel like? Along with the physics they have on the planet Mars, and then you really have a child who has a much more profound memory of learning about Mars through the arts in this type of environment.

José Cárdenas: And how many musicians are involved in the program?

Mark Dix: I think about 25. In the high 60s, almost 70 musicians in the Phoenix symphony and a large number of participation from the players. For all of us, this is really a new field where we come in and are doing something we've never done before, which is exciting for us, for all of us in our careers to do something we haven't done before but we have a passion for.

José Cárdenas: Now, Jim, you indicated this is year two now. Lessons learned from the first year and are there things that are being done differently this time around?

José Cárdenas: Absolutely. I think our musicians going into this had to be trained to be in a classroom environment and learn how to development curriculum to meet standards in all of those types of things and sit down with the teachers and their counterparts and develop this curriculum. I think this year, it's much more efficient. They've been through that once and now are -- have learned from that and have made that leap into the classroom in a much more efficient way and, you know, we'll improve upon it in the third year. This thing hopefully will be able to scale beyond that.

José Cárdenas: And hopefully, we'll see even more spectacular results than you already have. Thank you both for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about this program.

That's our show for tonight. From all of us here at eight and "Horizonte," I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good evening.

Jim Ward:President and CEO, Phoenix Symphony; Mark Dix:Musician, Phoenix Symphony;

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