As the warm summer-like days slowly fade into the crisp fall air, it's difficult to believe another school year is well underway.

The fall brings with it many of the sights and sounds we identify with central Ohio. The yellow school bus that complements the changing colors of the trees, our favorite fall sweater, frost on the car windows, and football games, including the beautiful sound of our high school marching bands heard in the distance.

During the Grove City-Central Crossing football game, I sat near two young students who were watching the halftime show with great interest. Their comments have stayed with me.

The students reacted to the precise formations of the marching bands and commented, "cool straight line." They made note of the sound, the uniforms, the flags, and then one said to the other, "They get that way because they practice all the time."

I realized the influence our music program has on our younger students and that music education helps to build skills that will benefit our students for a lifetime.

South-Western students are engaged in project-based learning -- where real problems and application to the world of work are at the core of learning in classrooms. There is no doubt that the opportunities afforded to our students in marching band and other musical ensembles are true examples of project-based learning.

Students acquire deeper, more meaningful knowledge when they are active learners. The commitment involved in each student's individual work is authentic and requires interaction, creativity, collaboration, skill, and assessment to ensure the show on Friday night is of the highest quality and something of which we can all be proud.

Musical performance is alive and well in the South-Western City School District and we take pride in our award-winning programs. We offer a wide array of courses in choral music, music theory, vocal ensemble, show choir, jazz ensemble, orchestra and concert and marching band. These programs allow our students to pursue their interests and enrich their lives socially as well as academically.

Jason Graham, Grove City High School's band director, describes his experience with students like this: "Playing an instrument requires a great deal of individual skill which is molded through years of instruction and diligent practice time at home. But perhaps greater than the musical achievement which comes from individual practice and group rehearsals, participation in band enables our students to learn the importance of responsibility, teamwork and interpersonal skills and provide a means to contribute to society."

Music education is an essential component of our curriculum, along with performing and visual arts. Our district recognizes a well-rounded education includes not only the arts, but access to a variety of extracurricular activities that allow students to thrive and strengthen the ties to our community.

Keith Hallas, Central Crossing High School's band director, said, "Music is a universal language that broadens the mind's ability to make connections to many other facets and strengthens the brain's ability to think and create. It develops many intelligences while teaching the basic life skills of teamwork, cooperation (especially kindness), work ethic and problem-solving through the creation of performance. In the SWCSD, the power performance-based music in the curriculum allows students to go further than they ever imagined through the journey of learning to perform."

So as fall pushes past summer in the next few weeks, take a moment to drive around our high schools and listen to the wonderful music in the air, knowing these experiences are invaluable for the development of our students.

Bradford Faust is the assistant superintendent of curriculum for the South-Western City School District.