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Originally published Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 3:33 PM

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Guest: Arts education can transform young people

The reality is that most students in Seattle receive no arts instruction, according to guest columnist Ludovic Morlot.

Special to The Times

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AS music director of the Seattle Symphony, I believe in the intrinsic power of the arts to enrich our lives, and that the influence of the arts can be substantial and transformative, especially for young people.

Arts education promotes creativity, innovation, discipline and teamwork — skills necessary for career success in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

These skill sets help students respond with flexibility and creativity to the challenges of living and working in a fast-changing, interconnected world.

But the reality is that most students, including our public-school students here in Seattle, receive almost no arts instruction.

School districts throughout the state of Washington should provide ongoing exposure to the performing and visual arts in all public schools from K through 12.

Furthermore, schools should adopt an integrated approach that promotes learning across disciplines, provides teachers with proper resources to successfully integrate arts into their curriculum and encourages students to actively engage in the arts.

We should strive to reach those children most in need. Key findings from the National Endowment for the Arts’ “Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth” studies show that disadvantaged teenagers and young adults with a history of in-depth, ongoing involvement in arts education fare better academically than those who have had less.

Their grades and test scores are higher, their dropout rates lower. In short, the more that students are exposed to and involved in a strong arts curriculum, the more likely they are to attend college.

Music programs in other cities and countries create great musicians and transform the lives of students at-risk: Education through Music in New York City and Los Angeles, the Sphinx Organization in Detroit and El Sistema in Venezuela.

In its own way, the Seattle Symphony is working to achieve a similar goal through a new program called LinkUp: Seattle Symphony.

Through our partnership with the Seattle Public Schools, we are launching this new program to give students opportunities to exercise their curiosity and creativity through active classroom participation.

With the benefit of curriculum materials developed by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, LinkUp: Seattle Symphony will help third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in public schools around the city learn to play recorders over the course of five- to 10-week residencies. (A local partner in this initiative, Music4Life, is providing the recorders.)

The students’ in-class work will culminate in concerts at Benaroya Hall, where they will play along with the symphony from their seats.

We often hear about the push for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in the classroom, which is no doubt important. But, I agree that we should replace STEM with STEAM to ensure that the arts play just as central a role in our children’s curriculum — and development — as math, science and language arts do, ideally throughout all of Washington state.

At the Seattle Symphony, we are doing everything we can to support arts education. The Symphony already works with 200 schools in 26 districts and for the past 40 years, has offered free annual concerts to 12,000 area fifth-graders.

I firmly believe that the arts support career development and promote rich and healthy lives. I am very fortunate to be a part of a strong leadership team that is shaping a new vision that expands our commitment to audiences, communities and music education.

The Seattle Symphony’s education and community-engagement programs — the new program mentioned above and many other projects still in the planning stages — help promote core values and instill enduring skills for future generations.

I encourage you to join us in ensuring that the arts form an integral part of our children’s education.

Ludovic Morlot is now in his second season as the Seattle Symphony’s music director.

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