Music to Their Ears: Ragnar and Joey Horn’s Passion for Early Music Education

What do the critically acclaimed indie rock band Darlingside and award-winning trumpet soloist Jonathan Dely have in common? They are both sponsored by Ragnar and Joey Horn, two individuals committed to supporting the arts; thanks in part to the support provided by the Horns, Darlingside has released four studio albums to praise by the likes of the New Yorker and Rolling Stone Magazine, and have been featured on NPR’s popular Tiny Desk Concert series. Jonathan has now played at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center, Blue Note New York, The Clark Art Institute, and Cold Spring Harbor Performing Arts Center. All four of Darlingside’s band members and Jonathan Dely graduated from Williams College, the Horns’ undergraduate alma mater.

Dely has stated that it was in third grade when he was taught to play the trumpet (actually his third choice of instrument after drums and saxophone) before he even realized his passion for music, and that “the importance of education, not just in private communities but in public communities, is essential” — to the success of musicians such as himself. It is this sentiment that his sponsors Joey and Ragnar whole-heartedly agree with; they are both passionate about the importance of the arts and particularly in the value music adds to primary and secondary education. Since 2018, they have been major supporters of the UK registered charity Restore the Music, whose mission is to reinstate access to music for every child in primary and secondary schools across London.

The Horns have pledged much of their life to philanthropic contributions, through both monetary donations and services provided. They have made considerable effort to support contemporary artists, focusing on those local to wherever they have called home. Music has been a source of inspiration and happiness for both of them, and in addition to their patronage of up and coming artists they have also been avid supporters of the UK registered charity Restore The Music since 2018. Aimed at ensuring access to music education in primary and secondary schools across the greater London area, the charity offers £10,000 to £20,000 grants to schools to be put towards implementing and improving their music programs, whether that be through purchasing musical instruments or tuition.

There is overwhelming evidence supporting the importance of music to childhood brain development. A study conducted at Northwestern University in the United States found students who played a musical instrument had better neural processing compared with those who simply listened to music and this highlights the importance of music education. Other studies have found that musical education speeds the development of speech and reading skills, giving children a better ability to distinguish subtle details of speech, leading to improved reading and comprehension. Children who engage with music have also been found to have substantial IQ point increases later in life than those who did not take any music lessons.

Music also helps children develop discipline and time management skills. Learning an instrument requires patience and dedication and developing these abilities earlier in life sets children up for greater success later. For example, children may be expected to learn their instruments and practice them outside of school, necessitating them to develop a consistent practice schedule as well as balance their other homework and activities. In training children to focus their attention for sustained periods, they also develop stronger cognitive and social abilities. By learning time management and discipline early in life, they are better prepared for when they will be required to balance a workload in the future, whether that be in high school, university, or their future careers.

Perhaps most important is music education’s ability to foster community and connection amongst those participating. Human beings are social creatures and for children in particular it’s one of the easiest ways for them to learn about the world around them. It is important to encourage this type of learning by providing them with experiences that they can share with each other. Creating a school band or encouraging participation in a chorus teaches children the value of collaboration and working together towards a final product. It also helps children gain a sense of empathy for others, as well as a means to express themselves and unleash their creativity.

In the UK, creative industries are growing at the rate of the wider economy, with the music industry in particular being worth approximately £4.4 billion. Despite this, underfunded state schools are often having to pull the plug on their music programs in favor of funding more traditionally practical subjects. Only 15% of all fifteen year olds nationally learn an instrument in school, and only 7.4% take GCSE music. With 37% of all children in London currently living in poverty and a massive decline in funding of music education in the public sector, the net result is a stark lack of music education and opportunity available to today’s young people.

Restore The Music aims to correct this. With two funding rounds a year in May and November, they identify primary and secondary schools in need of financial aid through recommendations from long-established partnerships with Arsenal in the Community and Place2Be. In carrying out a pre-grant assessment of eligibility, they look for schools with above average participation in pupil premium and free school meals grants. They also ask that the schools have developed a significant and impactful strategy for how they would use the grant funds should they receive them. To date, they have contributed upwards of £600,000 capital investment in 30 state primary and secondary schools across 16 London boroughs with a total reach of over 22,000 children.

Music is instrumental to a vibrant childhood, and thanks to the efforts of those like Joey and Ragnar Horn children in the UK have better access to what such a valuable avenue for development. To encourage the schools that received grants to keep up with their music programs, Restore The Music holds an annual music competition across all of the schools with an emphasis on original composition and ensemble performance. The prize is an additional £6,000 in prize money to be used towards funding their music programs. Joey Horn chaired the committee for a gala fundraiser for the charity in 2019 and had plans to be involved in 2020, but with the current covid-19 situation the event has been postponed. Cellist, conductor, and music education programme founder Julian Lloyd Webber said “ what’s not to like about a school subject that develops areas of the brain related to language and reasoning, encourages memory skills, increases hand-to-eye coordination, expands creative thinking, builds self-confidence, and has been proven to help children with their other school subjects?” In providing the resources that enable education of and through music, we encourage young people to not only help themselves feel good, but also learn a skill set that will allow them to engage and communicate better in today’s increasingly diverse world.

Ragnar Horn was born and raised in Norway, and Joey is of Indian heritage but was raised in Paris and New York. Both moved to the small college town of Williamstown, Massachusetts to attend Williams College for their bachelor’s degrees. Ragnar completed his degree in economics, while Joey earned a Bachelor of Arts in biology with a concentration on Middle Eastern studies. Afterwards, they both pursued their MBAs at competing ivy league universities — Ragnar attending Harvard Business School and Joey attending Yale University. Both were successful in their endeavors and have gone on to have impressive careers in Finance.

Originally published at https://www.vcpost.com on May 12, 2020.