Arts & Entertainment

Westfield Music Students Get a Leg Up in Academics & More

Members of the award-winning Westfield High School marching band Samantha Greenaway, Lucy Ritter, Michael Paglialunga, Michael Hauge, Nadia Matin, Max Martin, Sydney Bryant and Emily Holtzman. Credits: Albert Paglialunga

Westfield, NJ — Michael Hauge, senior drum major for the Westfield Marching Blue Devils, believes the school's marching band has taught him invaluable skills that have helped him socially, academically and emotionally. According to research about the importance of music education, he's right.

In 2013, The College Board, which administers the SAT, found that students who participated in four or more years of arts and music scored 95 points higher on their SAT, on average, than students who only participated in one-half year or less. A 2002 study by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles found that students involved in music were twice as likely to perform at higher levels in math than their peers who were not involved in music.

“I think at Westfield there is definitely a correlation between high-performing students and students involved in music,” Hauge said. “I believe this is, in part, due to the fact that excelling at music and excelling in school draw on many of the same character traits: diligence, creativity and a desire to improve.”

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Nadia Matin, junior drum major for the Westfield Marching Blue Devils and flutist in the wind ensemble, explained the link between music and math.

“Most basically, notes are math,” Matin said. “We're dividing the figures on a page with the fingerings of our instruments to create music. In marching band, we remember getting from place to place in numbers of counts and use coordinates to find our places. Band kids also dedicate themselves to something that is originally difficult and use the skills band teaches to grow in all aspects of life. “

Equally important, some say, is the impact of music education on social performance.

“Band is inclusive and accepting of anyone and everyone,” band director Chris Vitale said. “We have athletes, students who excel in academics and students who excel in community service. Music serves as the glue that brings these students together who may not otherwise interact in our school community.”

Both Hauge and Matin said they would be different people had they not joined marching band.

“The band is a cohesive family that looks out for each other,” Matin said. “It gave me a home when I really didn't have any friends. I had just moved across the country and now I'm in a leadership position to give that same opportunity to those who don't necessarily have a place. That's why band is so special.”

Hauge agreed, speaking to the interdependence among marching band members.

“Music students at Westfield understand what it means to be part of something bigger than themselves,” Hauge said. “They trust each other, they are aware of their responsibilities to each other and they work together, in class and outside of class. I would not be the person I am today without the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met through the band program.”

Although Matin said people don’t support band with the same vigor as sports, she feels it is equally as important. Both Hauge and Vitale agreed.

“Many of the lessons learned in the arts can be learned through participation in athletics,” Vitale said. “The one difference between the two, in my opinion, is that in music everyone participates all of the time, whereas with some sports a student may only play a portion of the time.”

In 2015, the Westfield Marching Blue Devils brought home the division championship from the USBands National Competition. The 135 students of the marching band continue to perform well in the 2016 season.

“Band is the most special experience of my life,” Matin said. “The students around me inspire me every single day and my directors are my biggest role models. I wouldn't be the person I am today without the program.”

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