Dear Ms. Rizzo:
Recently you proposed that the TCDSB consider classical music as a means of making certain areas of our schools — bathrooms, parking lots — into safer, calmer spaces.
As someone who has dedicated tens of thousands of dollars and hours on the study of classical music, I have long struggled to pinpoint how best to apply its virtues. Your insight has helped me realize that we have been using music wrong all along.
I realize now that my music teachers had it wrong, too. Back in high school, Mr. Grylls tried to convince us that music had the ability above all other art forms to bring people together. He played for us this performance from 1989 near the site of the freshly-fallen Berlin Wall. How naive were these Berliners: coming together in this so-called “celebration of freedom”! Did they not realize that Beethoven’s Ninth symphony would have packed a greater punch if blasted from a watchtower’s loudspeaker, in the effort to keep citizens at bay?
Then there was professor Myska, who for some reason felt that the power of classical music lies not in its ability to calm listeners, but rather in its power to excite them. The poor fellow tried desperately to convince us that the Rondo alla Zingarese from Brahms’s Piano Quartet No. 1 could somehow rouse the human spirit into action and awareness. Sadly, Dr. Myska’s suggestion fell on deaf ears, you see, because after playing this excerpt, half of us were driven away from the classroom — and those who stayed had fallen asleep! It was a sad scene (if perhaps somewhat safer).
Therefore, Ms. Rizzo, anyone who proposes using music as a tool to deter loiterers and to instill in our learners a sense of impassivity has this teacher’s support. Because indeed, we would not wish our schools to remain spaces where teenagers feel too energized before dismissal, nor feel too tempted to linger around after it.
But why stop at music? I’m confident that we could google studies which support the use of other forms of high art as wea– as tools for teenage behaviour management.
Might I recommend the poetry of W.H. Auden? Shouted from a megaphone, his words can act as a satisfying deterrent for n’er-do-wells. (Curiously, spoken through a PA, his verse has an opposite, lulling effect.) Or perhaps we could mount in our parking lots reproductions of paintings by Kandinsky, canvasses so garish that after-hours lingerers would have no choice but to avert their eyes in disgust.
As a teacher and musician, I thank you for having kindled a much-needed discussion about the value of art music and the role that it might play in our schools. Trust that this teacher, for one, commits to doing his part to ensure that music continues to hold the power to move our young learners.
If not always necessarily to move them away from us.