Knox teacher shining a light on music in schools

Published 12:01 am Thursday, March 16, 2023

SALISBURY — Music is a part of nearly every waking hour for Knox Middle School teacher Destiny Stone, and she’s hoping to impart that passion to her students.

Stone officially requested that Salisbury proclaim March as Music in Our Schools Month, and that request was approved during a recent city council meeting. The nationally recognized month focuses on the importance of quality music education and the benefits of offering music in schools.

Stone says those benefits are hard to quantify because there are so many, such as how music combines other subjects that students learn in school in unexpected, or at least overlooked, ways.

“When it comes to music, it encompasses so many different topics,” Stone said. “You have history, like how music was used in the civil rights movement or other social protests. Think of the Star Spangled Banner. That is music.”

That’s just the first subject.

“You have math, when looking at music theory and teaching students how to count out the beats, or when you combine them, how it measures and makes rhythm,” Stone said. “You have science when you are singing and creating sound. Those are sound waves bouncing off of each other.”

While Stone sees her class as an intersection of numerous subjects, she also endeavors to curate a creative reset.

“I try to treat my class as an escape,” Stone said. “That is not to say the other subjects aren’t important, but they can be a little more rigid. I want my classroom to have structure and the educational aspect but also allow students to express themselves, so they don’t feel bogged down by everything.

“I think it is important for this generation because so many of them have been looking at a phone since they came out of the womb.”

Stone has been an educator in the Rowan-Salisbury School System since 2020 and strives to make real-world connections with her students to give them insight into how music can be a career outlet.

“When we think of music, we have largely just thought about singers and instrumentalists, but now, in the 21st century, there are so many more opportunities,” Stone said. “When you think about movies, somebody has to sit down and create that music. Somebody has to listen to different songs and say think that song would fit well here. You have people who work in musical theater and are in the orchestra. You have music producers and music supervisors, even music therapists.”

Given those prospective outlets, Stone hopes that by shining a light on Music in Our Schools Month, there will be more conversations about the state of music in education.

As a Black woman, illuminating the contributions of the demographics she represents is also essential for Stone. She is not afraid to challenge commonly held notions of originators in the music industry.

“We want to be real, in the United States, when we think of blues, it’s the mother of all music,” Stone said. “I particularly remember one of my courses at Catawba College taught how blues music started jazz, hip-hop and even rock.

“There would not be other types of popular music if it had not been for Black musicians just singing and creating, whether it was about their struggle, love or everyday life.”

Stone also pointed out that “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley, who is typically considered the father of rock and roll, was a cover of a song by a Black woman named Big Mama Thorton.

“My job as a music teacher is to shed light and let my students know this is the past, this is what has happened, this is where we are today and how we can move forward,” Stone said.

It is not just crucial for Stone that she tells her students they can carve out a place for themselves in the world of music no matter their appearance. She has to show them, too.

That’s why she features some of her students in an upcoming music video for “They Got Nothing on You,” set to be released on March 24.

Stone traces much of her passion for music back to a teacher she had as a teen.

“My music teacher from high school was so important to me, even to this day, as I am an adult,” Stone said. “We still keep in contact. She taught me piano and was my choir director.”

Now, Stone indicated that music is her “entire life.”

“Saturday through Sunday, I am the worship leader at church,” Stone said. “Monday through Friday, I am a music teacher, and on the weekends, I am doing gigs.”

Ironically, she does drive to work without music, admitting that even she needs a little silence every now and then.

Having been impacted by her teacher, Stone’s ambition is to be that same figure for one of her students as she guides them on their own musical journeys.