Glen Schubert used his passion for music and his talent for teaching to compose a program that would educate children in underserved schools and cultivate a love of music inside each of them. Instruments of Change is a program that teaches adolescents music; not just who and what to listen to, but how to play an instrument themselves. My conversation with Glen left me enthralled. He’s certainly a great guy with a huge heart. Moreover, his devotion to children within underserved communities is what indeed left me in awe. You know when he’s speaking that he genuinely believes in each child that has gone through his program.
During our chat, he taught me the importance of music in young people’s lives and how it can create future opportunities. Watch him live on October 29, 2021, on the TEDx Westshore stage.
Marla: I heard that you would be conducting a TEDx Talk? Tell us a little about your topic?
Glen: I will be talking about the power of music education and how it changes lives. It improves the brains’ ability to learn and retain information. Music education ended in numerous school systems. For many reasons, one being the lack of financial support. Yet, virtually all the studies we site, funded by the Department of Education, say learning to play a musical instrument advances math and language scores. It also helps increase graduation rates and reduces drug and alcohol abuse. There are just all kinds of benefits for children learning to play an instrument.
Marla: Why do you feel like music programs in schools are not supported?
Glen: There’s a big focus on the S.T.E.M. criteria, an acronym for the education of science, technology, engineering, and math. Amongst the Arts community, we want to add art to the concept and make it
S.T.E.A.M. Adding artistic abilities and talents to the academic approach. There are countries abroad that require two years of music instruction because of the benefits. We’re not saying that every student will become a musician and play for the rest of their lives. However, studies show that if we can teach children to play an instrument, not just music appreciation, for at least 18 to 24 months, the benefits will resonate throughout their lives, especially in math and reading comprehension.
Marla: What made you start Instruments of Change?
Glen: I learned to play the piano at an early age. Both my parents played instruments; my father was a concert pianist in his youth. After graduating high school, however, he joined the Army. I’ve always had an interest in music. In the 90s, I did a lot of studying about the benefits of music education. I started writing a plan for this concept of music education, which later became the foundation for Instruments of Change. At that time, I didn’t see the idea through to fruition. In 2009, I had a little more time on my hands. I was 49 and didn’t want to be 80 years old, looking back at my life with regret. We spoke to some community members, friends, and other individuals we knew, and we were able to raise support to start a program in a Title One school in the Tampa Bay area. We are still in that school to this day. It’s our oldest running band program. We just jumped in. I realized early on in the program the considerable boost in self-esteem within our students. Working with primarily 5th graders, who’ve never had a job, or any real responsibilities in life, this was a leap toward maturity for them. They had to be responsible to be successful in this program. They were required to sign a contract stating that they’d fulfill the participation hours and, in the end, would be granted an instrument of their own. Classes and practice were after school two days per week. They were required to play at events like school assemblies and other functions.
Marla: How long is the contract period for a student?
Glen: It’s for the 5th grade school year. Yes, an entire school year. You have to remember, these are ten-year-olds. So, this is basically one-tenth of their lives. This is one of the best times to teach children something that will contribute to a lifetime of learning. I’ve had people asked me why I teach them music? Some people feel we are just teaching them a hobby. However, studies show the effect of music on the brain and how it increases the brain’s ability to learn new things. Playing music engages the eyes, ears, mouth, lungs, fingers, and so much more. These functions have to work together to get the simplest of squeaks to come out of a clarinet.
Glen said, “Our goal is to show these children opportunities through music that they may never have had if it weren’t for this program. It is a life-changer. I feel good knowing I am planting a seed of knowledge that will develop throughout their lives”.