Bits 'n' Pieces: Fighting the sounds of silence

By Stover E. Harger III, Columbian neighborhood news coordinator

Published:

 

Gayle Beacock believes in the life-changing power of music.

At the most basic, music is a mix of sound and silence that has inspired through history.

It's called a "universal language" and the benefits of music education — particularly at a young age — have been touted by experts for years. However, as schools across the country have been forced to set aside cost-cutting scalpels in lieu of budget-gutting hatchets, arts programs are often on the chopping block.

But Gayle, co-owner of Vancouver's Beacock Music, 1420 S.E. 163rd Ave., is on a mission to change the course.

She was elected in January to a three-year term on the 24-member board of directors of the National Association of Music Merchants, or NAMM, a nonprofit that promotes arts education while representing the music product industry.

"The whole purpose of NAMM is to create more music-makers in the world," Gayle said. "To be a part of that has been really exciting and fun." Gayle was also past president of the Retail Print Music Dealers Association and the National Association of School Music Dealers.

Her brother and store co-owner Russ Beacock has also served on the board. Gayle said Beacock Music has aligned itself with NAMM since 1976, when the retail store and music education center was founded by her parents, Dale and Susan.

Gayle is helping NAMM spread the message that — even when times are tough — arts education should be readily available. She and others will fly to Washington, D.C., in November to meet one on one with local lawmakers to fight for the cause and push for any related legislation. Before that, she'll speak in July at the Summer NAMM convention in Nashville, Tenn.

She is thrilled to do her part at the Capitol and also here at home. Gayle and other advocates plan to identify local school districts that are at risk for cutting music programs and develop suitable lobbying strategies.

"We'll basically divide and conquer," Gayle said.

Citing research, Gayle said those who take band, choir and other music courses when young often grow to be successful not only in school, but in life.

"The research says that music students and art students are so successful because they have that well-rounded education," Gayle said.

Beacock Music helped sponsor a visit last week by noted music education researcher John Benham to the Beaverton School District in Oregon. Benham argues cutting the curriculum only shifts students into other classrooms, which creates a greater need for space and additional teachers.

While there might be initial benefits to a school district's bottom line, Gayle said the long-term savings could easily eclipse the initial cost reductions.

"There's no downside to keeping music," Gayle said.

— Stover E. Harger III


Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.