Heid Music is celebrating and promoting music education with The Big 10 Giveaway, a photo contest for elementary, middle and high schools to show off their music spirit. All month long, schools across Wisconsin have been submitting photos that represent their music programs to be voted on by the public. The 10 schools whose photos have the most votes at the end of March will choose between a variety of prizes, including sheet music and new instruments. Heid Music started the Big 10 Giveaway five years ago to promote Music in the Schools month, a celebration that lasts all of March and raises awareness for the importance of music education. The statistics and stories surrounding the value of music education need to be shared and we must advocate for the importance of music in our schools, Executive Vice President of Heid Music Dede Heid said. Heid said some of those statistics include higher test scores, attendance and graduation rates. Children who study a musical instrument are more likely to excel in all of their studies, work better in teams, have enhanced critical thinking skills, stay in school and pursue further education, Heid said. Music programs across the country are disappearing, despite their importance. Music programs are constantly in danger of being cut from shrinking school budgets even though theyre proven to improve academics, Heid said. Many UW Oshkosh students have noted the advantage of having music education before college and the benefits it provided. Vocal performance major Matthew Beecher, who participated in his high school choir, said the opportunity for young people to participate in music is irreplaceable. Those three years shaped the type of person I was going to be, Beecher said. To think that there might even be a chance of kids not having that same opportunity is horrifying. Beecher said this participation should continue into college, even if its not someones field of study. Whatever form it takes, the reward is incomprehensible because of all the activity thats going on in your head when you comprehend whats on the page and produce [the music] with others around you, Beecher said. Music industry major Gabrielle Hass said, along with increased brain activity, music provides a support system for students. I do think its important to try to increase the number of people who participate in music because group music making builds community, Hass said. Radio/TV/film major Joshua Decker said he is not involved with music programs but music is still one of the things that inspires him as an actor. Its important for music to always be a part of education, Decker said. It allows for kids to experience a different way of thinking. History major Kaitlyn Cartwright said music is not just for music majors because of the several ways music forces students to use different parts of their brain. Theres a great correlation between music and creativity, Cartwright said. Music has an analytical element that is easier for people that dont like using the left side of their brain to understand. Heid said the creativity and teamwork skills music fosters are two of the top qualities companies look for when hiring new employees. Throughout the rest of the year, Heid said Heid Music has several other programs to help promote music education, such as clinics, solo and ensemble workshops and teacher workshops. We feel that music is too important to be reduced or cut and that is why we take an active stance in helping educators throughout Wisconsin strengthen their music programs [by] being a solid and reliable resource for all things musical, Heid said.