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[Activity] Rostropovich, Children and the United Nations

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In 1981, the accomplished cellist and conductor, Mstislav Rostropovich, had a performance at United Nations Headquarters in New York City for an event on behalf of UNICEF. Guest performers and young music students from the city were invited to perform with the orchestra. The Maestro was a product of Soviet Russian culture where children were selected to be introduced to music education based on completely random decisions (look, speech, posture, politeness) and he had limited expectations.

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But something magical happened. Members of the U.N. congregation asked the students to improvise on randomly given melodies. They performed masterfully and were rewarded with applause and acclaim from the entire congregation, including the orchestra members.

Inspired, Maestro Rostropovich exclaimed, “…these children [and] all the other hundreds of thousands of budding musicians… will be eventually making tomorrow’s music, and through music spinning new threads of peace.”


 

Debate Exercise:

Choose any of the below questions and pose them to your music class, at a Board Meeting, during a parent/community meeting. And play the pessimist against music education. Have the parents/board members/students each make the case on behalf of music education.

  • Is music education important to a child’s development?
  • Is it a privilege for a student to be allowed to spend their time playing an instrument?
  • Music education isn’t relevant to getting a job or preparing a student for life in the real world… right?
  • Doesn’t music education serve the sole purpose of trying to create musicians?
  • And who really wants another musician in the family?
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