As all students involved in the arts will tell you, arts programs provided in and during the school day play an important role in providing outlets to express creativity and find inspiration. In addition, studies have shown that participation in arts programs nurtures critical thinking and complex problem solving abilities, helping students develop the knowledge and skills that are critical to success in school, work, and life.

The music students of Interlake High School, within the Bellevue School District, are one such group of young scholars that found great personal value in their school’s arts programs. Last year, when they discovered that these programs had been put on the “chopping block” – slated for significant cuts, many of the students took action – speaking out by writing letters, generating petitions, and attending budget meetings.

As the district continued discussions, one group of students decided to take their efforts a step farther. Rather than simply voice opposition, they focused on developing a creative way to raise the awareness and understanding about the role and relevance of the arts in their complete education. They centered on engaging their school and greater community in the very arts discipline that inspired them. The venture also supported their International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program’s Creativity, Action, and Service project – a diploma requirement.

Now in its second year, the Battle of the Bands is more than just an opportunity for a prize, it’s an event that is helping make a difference in the way the community sees and values the arts in school. All proceeds support ArtsEd Washington’s work to advance systemic change around arts education.

Last year’s event – completely student developed and led – generated phenomenal results, raising more than $4K for ArtsEd Washington. By raising awareness for the work of ArtsEd Washington and increasing name recognition, other Interlake student groups have now also taken up the cause and are developing their own unique ways to fundraise and increase community awareness of our work through their service projects.

ArtsEd Washington is thrilled to have the opportunity to support and promote this valuable youth event and we extend our gratitude to the student leaders of the Battle of the Bands for ArtsEd WA for making ArtsEd Washington its beneficiary.

We asked Interlake’s Battle of the Bands for ArtsEd WA founding students, Andrew Nelson (AN), Aaron Roper (AR), Carew Giberson-Chen (CGC), Andrew Nguyen (ANG), and Rohan Waghani (RW) to talk with us about how music inspires them and how it’s made an impact in their education:

1. How has your involvement in the arts impacted your overall school experience?

AN: I cannot imagine going to school every day and not interacting with the arts. Music, in particular, has played such a fundamental role in who I am as a person, as a thinker, and as a learner. The time I spend in band and jazz band during the day is so much more than a break from my other studies, it engages my whole mind, improves my mood, and helps me focus.

AR: Involvement in the arts has strengthened my education as a whole. We are blessed in the Bellevue School District with fantastic arts programs that encourage student growth as artists and as people. I am tremendously grateful for the opportunities that have been presented to me and I know that the arts have allowed me to become a better student and a better person–more focused, driven, creative, and expressive.

RW: The arts have helped me gain confidence in my own abilities as well as really make deep friendships in school. Because of the massive amount of rehearsal time you spend with your fellow choir members and the emphasis on being a tight, connected group we really bond and become a family within school. Beyond just singing, the drama rehearsals and shows have been great creative outlets for me to express myself.

2. How has your involvement in band/choir inspired you personally?

AR: As a band student, I have grown tremendously as a musician, a team member, and an individual. Music inspires me in a way that no academic subject can. There is something so inherently moving in creating music that cannot be put into words. In band, the whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts, and music education has allowed me to learn this important lesson.

CGC: When I learned that all fifth graders in the Bellevue School District had to participate in either band or orchestra, I wasn’t particularly thrilled and chose to play the clarinet – but with no real sense of commitment. However, as the year progressed, I fell in love with the instrument and with band as a whole. Six years later, I am still a committed member of the school band – initially inspired by my involvement in fifth grade band.

ANG: Through band, I have developed into a more complete individual. Music drives me to think more creatively and to strive for greater goals. Band has taught me how to work effectively as a member of a team.

3. Explain how this event motivates and encourages other students and the community at-large?

AN: A lot of people our age feel strongly about the arts, but don’t get their voices heard in the “traditional” ways—attending fundraisers, writing their legislators, etc. Our event is aimed at youth, giving them the chance to show their support for arts education while celebrating music in the best of atmospheres at the same time. Also, we give talented young musicians the chance to gain exposure and encourage their musicianship. Without support from the community and teen centers like the Old Redmond Firehouse, Ground Zero, KTUB, and the Vera Project, many young people would never discover this incredible outlet for their passion.

AR: One of my favorite parts of this event is the connection we make with the community and the awareness we draw to arts education. While the money we raise is certainly significant and can have a real and tangible effect on the state of arts in our public schools, I love the fact that so many individuals come out to show their support for the arts. By showing that we care about arts education in our schools, we can truly make an impact and support these programs for years to come.

RW: There are not that many opportunities for kids our age to really perform outside of the realm of classical and theatre. As far as rock goes most competitions are for older, more rehearsed bands. This event motivates kids to really get out there and try it, get the band going and give it a shot. Also it really helps spread awareness about the arts. Many of our attendees last year have no clue that the arts programs were at risk in the last budget crisis and were shocked to discover how close they came to being cut. It gets kids motivated about being more active members in the community and defending what they stand for.

4. Why do you think arts education is important?

AR: Arts education is an integral part of our school system. The arts help shape well-rounded and creative citizens for our rapidly changing world. A complete education is about more than just creating good students, it’s about creating good people, and the arts do that by fostering student growth in a totally different environment than the everyday classroom. The arts have allowed me to become who I am today and I hope future students have the same opportunities I’ve been entitled too.

ANG: Art education is necessary because it teaches students things that are beyond math and history. Band in particular teaches students skills such as teamwork, leadership skills, and responsibility. The arts are different than other subjects in that they allow students to express their feelings through whatever medium they choose.

RW: I could offer you a plethora of scientific explanations, talking about how playing an instrument stimulates the brain in a certain way, or learning theory helps improve math skills, but I believe the real importance of an arts education is that it provides children a creative outlet. It’s another means of expressing ourselves, whether through song, sax solo, or a painting. That release is in my opinion just as important as learning how to add and subtract, and it’s a skill that can be carried with us for life.

5. What would you like your school district and its leaders to understand about the importance of providing arts opportunities to students?

AN: We—the students—care about music and arts education, and we’re not willing to accept it getting cut. School is often a student’s first opportunity to learn and discover art and music. Music, in turn, teaches teamwork, creativity, collaboration, and allows us to connect with other people on a deeper level. Every student deserves the opportunity to engage in the arts, and it is school leaders’ responsibility to make sure these programs are strong and remain intact.

AR: That the arts are more than just a superfluous luxury that, while nice, are an inevitable casualty of hard economic times. The arts are a necessary part of our educational system in the same way math is necessary and history is necessary. Our students can’t afford to lose the arts. This issue is too important to leave up to the whims of economic times and I hope administrators can see the crucial impact of these programs and continue them for future generations.

CGC: Without the arts opportunities provided by schools in our district, most students would never be exposed to the arts at all. It would be a tragic loss for many students if arts programs in the Bellevue School District, or other surrounding districts, were cut because these deserving students would be denied the chance to experience them.

ANG: That arts education offers students a chance to do things they can’t in any other class. Arts education is just as important to students as any other subject and although it is not cheap, it is indispensable.

RW: The average professional athlete’s career ends at the age of 36. The average musician’s career goes on forever – you can carry singing or playing an instrument on till death. By offering children the opportunity to explore the arts you’re giving them a means of coping with the daily stresses of life for an entire lifetime. That is a gift that every child should have the opportunity to receive.

Click on the following links to read the full interviews:

The “Battle of the Bands for ArtsEd WA” is an annual regional event open to high school bands from the greater Eastside.   Send an email for more information.

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