What do music stars Harry Connick Jr., Pat Benatar, and the Backstreet Boys have in common? They all played sold out shows this summer at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, VA –and they all took time before their shows to record PSAs in support of music education for MENC.
During the recording sessions, all the artists reminisced about their own school music experiences and their teachers. Benatar spoke about being part of school music in elementary, middle, and high school. She credited her high school choir teacher, Georgia Rhule, for “teaching me everything I know about work ethic, appreciation of music and how to be a great singer, and all the other really important tools I needed to become who I am today.”
As a young man growing up in New Orleans, Connick’s high school music teacher was Ellis Marsalis. “My fondest memory of music in school,” Connick remembered, “is one day I was goofing around in Ellis’s class, with his son Delfeayo… Ellis got pretty upset, Delfeayo ran out of the classroom, and I ran out after him because Ellis was chasing us.” When Marsalis caught Connick, he continued, “he said, ‘you’re not serious about this, and if you plan to be anything in your life, you better get serious.’ That was the last time I goofed around in Ellis’s class!”
Backstreet Boy Brian Littrell described “a long time friend of the last 25 years – Barry Turner, my music teacher from grade school through middle school and high school. Mr. Turner … respected me, saw the talent I and others had, always pushed us to be better, to work hard and to be diligent and respectful. I’m very grateful for the relationship I still have with Mr. Turner.” Howie Dorough said he remembered being in his high school chorus and performing in competitions across the state of Florida, including at Florida State University and University of Florida, and around the country.
“I think music is good for kids,” said another member of the Backstreet Boys, Nick Carter, “because it’s important to stay active … keep your brain moving. Music can also keep you away from all the bad stuff you could be susceptible to … it definitely kept me out of trouble when I was younger. Plus, it’s a really cool, fun thing to do. If you want to be different, get into music!”
“I think music’s one of the best things for kids,” concluded Connick. “I hope at some point [school music] it becomes mandatory for everybody, because just like sports helps your body, music really helps your mind and your soul.”
MENC thanks Wolf Trap for facilitating these artist interviews and PSAs.
—Elizabeth Lasko, August 26, 2010. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education