JIS Students playing violins
Arts programmes in Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) supports and improve their students talent and hobby. Photo courtesy of @jakartainterculturalschool/NOWJAKARTA

While music is undoubtedly a part of adolescent life in Jakarta, should it be a part of formal education in international schools? NOW! Jakarta editorial intern and model student at JIS, Victoria Budiono explores the subject based on her own experience.

One of the few things that persist as glue to this diverse human race, especially in this day and age, is music. Music has a supreme power of bringing people together, regardless of age, race, ethnicity and socio-economic status.

Having gone to international schools my whole life, music, without a doubt, has played an immense role in my life. My interest in learning the violin was magnified when I started taking extracurricular violin classes in second grade, and I haven’t stopped playing since.

But I recently realized that in many schools, not just around Jakarta, but around the world, music classes in elementary school were mandatory. As a child, I had to learn how to play nursery rhymes such as Hot Cross Buns and Old Macdonald Had a Farm on the pianica and the recorder. Now that I’m in high school, I never understood the reason behind those lessons. What was the point of playing those instruments and what were they preparing us for?

Outside of music class, however, some kids would bring speakers into classrooms and play several “hot” music aloud during free periods or lunch breaks. School authorities may not approve of this concept, but it serves as a relaxing period for students and a time to bond over school days.

When I moved to Jakarta Intercultural School in 2018, the concept of music was not different. The students mentioned that they had similar music classes that focused on playing unconventional instruments such as the recorder when they were younger. In such a huge campus that has so much outdoor space, students have their own spots where they just sit and relax during passing time, lunch or free blocks, so there’s no doubt that you can hear different groups blasting different sorts of music, whether it be rap songs, soft pop or oldies. JIS students come from all around the world, hence the reason for the exposure of multi-international musical influences, from galau Indonesian songs to calming French music to groovy Latin pop.

For high schoolers, music class is an elective that students can choose to take. Learning about music should be something that is taken more seriously. We listen to music all the time, watch various singers perform live and even attend music festivals, but we never truly understand the depth of musicality.

Alicia Hartono, a senior in JIS, proudly stands as one of the heads of Indonesia’s renowned The Resonanz Children’s Choir. She became a part of this group as early as the age of four. At JIS, she was able to further amplify her strengths through her choice of taking the choir elective. After traveling the world to compete as a member of The Resonanz Children’s Choir, she became a member of IASAS choir, which technically is an association where six private schools around Southeast Asia compete against or showcase their talents to each other.

JIS does not put all their focus into academics; rather also heavily emphasize the importance of creative arts. Students are able to choose from several different classes, such as String Sinfonia, concentrating on instruments like the violin and cello, Wind Ensemble, centring on instruments like the flute, saxophone and trumpet and Concert Band, which is basically a chorus of various instruments that make up the school orchestra. With a powerful voice and unparalleled talent, Alicia chooses to take choir as one of her electives. The school encourages musical techniques and skills conventionally found in classical and theatrical genres rather than modern pop culture. However, pop culture never fails to die on school grounds. Other than blasting music around campus, students continuously listen to music with earphones on, sing with friends and school assemblies pose as a platform for students to perform their own music choice.

Music, sometimes taken for granted, plays one of the most important roles in our lives. The idea that music has the capability of allowing children to critically think and foster creative minds is quite undermined today. Many students don’t participate in music classes or theatrical productions as they are afraid of not being good enough or not standing out on an advanced level. Music has revolved around humanity for a long time and will continue evolving as it circles our lives. Music classes definitely do not need to be a mandatory course; however it should always be heavily encouraged in order to engage students to be more experimental and expressive.