Hometown Heroes: School Music Programs and the Brain


Beginning around 2010, many schools districts across the United States began to cut down or omit funding for programs considered to be “unnecessary.” Outside of the traditional classroom, this meant budget cuts in fine arts programs (drama, music, art). And the chopping continues as we go into the 2013-2014 school year.

Music education matters though. Parents in Toronto recently fended off a $2 million dollar music program cut to their schools by utilizing an online petition. They raised 10,000+ signatures against the cuts.

Why should music programs be saved?

Music education promotes good brain development in children, whose brains are still developing. Musical training improves memory, cognition, math skills, and attention (Dana.org), and causes “long-lasting changes in motor abilities and brain structure.” (Concordia Univ, 2013)

In 2000, Gordon Shaw, PhD found that second graders who had studied music had improved their advanced math skills to the fourth grade level. (Keeping Mozart in Mind, Academic Press)

Autism spectrum disorders alone affect 1 to 1.5 million Americans. With regular music classes, children with autism are able to eliminate monolithic speech patterns with singing, improve language development (Niagara Univ), and show improved behavior (University Putra Malaysia, 2013).

As of 2010, approximately, 2.8 million children (5.2%) ages 5-17 had a disability (US Census).

Music helps children with developmental disabilities, depression, ADD, ADHD, various learning disabilities, speech and language impairments, and emotional and behavioral disorders. Music affects mood and the body, creating excitement or calming the nerves. It can even reduce perceived pain in children. In short, music is therapeutic and allows freedom of expression and creation.

Dr. John Enyart and His Granddaughter Performing

Dr. John Enyart and His Granddaughter Performing

In 1985, John Enyart, PhD founded an orchestral music program at Morningside Academy in Port St. Lucie, Florida. He began with the young children, grades kindergarten through the sixth grade, and grew the program. Two years later, in 1987, Dr. Enyart founded the Treasure Coast Youth Symphony. Coming up on 30 years of musical teaching, he himself has influenced thousands of children and youth through classical music studies.

Dr. Enyart is the son of missionaries to Bolivia.  He received his first violin from a fellow missionary after his father gave the man a mule. A Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia played the violin often in the Enyart home, just outside La Paz. It was then, at age 7, that Dr. Enyart developed a love for classical violin.

John Enyart’s love of music earned him a college scholarship.

He last received a doctorate in Musicology and Music Theory from the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. There he continued as a part of the Graduate Faculty, teaching music theory for five years before coming to Florida. He served as Principal Second in the Philharmonia, and Concertmeistro of the Concert Orchestra. Dr. Enyart has performed in Guatemala, Honduras, Bolivia, and Taiwan. He also played with the Atlantic Classical Orchestra of Vero Beach and Stuart, Florida for 15 years.

When asked about his own personal observations regarding the benefits of music studies, he humbly answers, “I’ve noticed that 50 to 70% of the orchestra children in the younger grades receive high grades each year. Many of them have gone on to become doctors, lawyers and the like.”

Dr. Enyart states that “Music must touch the soul.”  The soul is a part of the mind. And our minds are what music helps. When asked about cuts in music programs, he responds, “It’s amazing that schools wish to cut what really helps the children.”

Today Morningside Academy has a string orchestra climbing through the twelfth grade. Two of Dr. Enyart’s own children are music instructors there as well, and he has grandchildren who have gone on to study music at the university.

The key to an excellent orchestra or music program, Dr. Enyart states, is this: “You must have a good principal who is willing to work with you. And, you must love the kids and spend time with them.”

As school systems and private schools around the country reflect on budget cuts, consider the needs of the children first. Keep and develop music programs in your schools. Use retired volunteers who love to conduct and teach if necessary. Music is a language itself which touches the soul, bringing about continuity – in the brain, in behavior, in emotions, and in personal expression. It has been with us as long as man can remember and is a piece of the fabric of developed society.

It is not often one finds a man who has a passion for his art which has carried him through life and which has touched so many children, for the better. For this reason, I choose Dr. John Enyart as a Hometown Hero.

To contact Dr. John Enyart with questions about developing an orchestral program, email him at: drjohnenyart@bellsouth.net

HAVE A HERO TIP?  Hometown Heroes are in every town and city.  They are regular people who have made a positive difference in their community impacting  others for the better. Send your Hometown Hero tip to Kelly Jadon  kfjadon@gmail.com or find her online at kellyjadon.com

Coach Mike Sawtelle: A Hometown Hero

Hometown Hero: OpenDyslexic Now At Wikipedia 

Hometown Heroes: Boxer Donny Poole And His Wife Allison

 © 2013 "Hometown Heroes" Kelly Jadon