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“Music is the one art we all have inside. We may not be able to play an instrument, but we can sing along or clap or tap our feet. Have you ever seen a baby bouncing up and down in the crib in time to some music? When you think of it, some of that baby’s first messages from his or her parents may have been lullabies, or at least the music of their speaking voices. All of us have had the experience of hearing a tune from childhood and having that melody evoke a memory or a feeling. The music we hear early on tends to stay with us all our lives.” – Fred Rogers
Understanding the Power of Music
Have you ever watched a movie on ‘mute’? Or, have you had to turn the subtitles on just to get the vibe of what they were saying because for some reason or another you couldn’t turn up the volume? If you have children, you’ve done this. And since we all know you’ve done this, we also know that it’s just not the same without the volume. Sure, we miss the inflections and accents when we’re having to read the dialogue “Passion of the Christ”-style, but we’re also missing something much more powerful, the score and the feelings. Can you imagine trying to become engaged with the prologue to the Star Wars movies without the music? It would just be bright lights, big Word Art, and then animated text explaining to us the history of what we’re seeing, even though we probably just got up to get popcorn and are waiting for the action to start on Hoth.
Music helps us to know how we feel about things. It speaks where words fall silent. For children, this interpretation of human emotion is integral to human understanding. John Williams wanted us to feel proud and excited when we sat down to watch Star Wars. He wanted us to feel scared when we heard Jaws. Likewise, Samuel Barber wanted us to feel heartbroken when we heard “Adagio for Strings” for the first time, which is why it has been used countless times in media, film, and even for the BBC Network’s September 11 Tribute. Music, in its own right, teaches us human compassion. Likewise, the benefits of music education can include teaching children comradery, team work, and helping to build relationships that would otherwise not be built.
Music’s Impact on Students
Through an interview with a local band director, we learned that although you can see the impact that music has on students, you can’t give that impact a letter grade. How does music make an impact on students studying the art? The truth is, it’s undefinable and not something you can measure. It’s not something that’s going to show up on their report card later that semester. Take, for instance, special needs students. First, you have to understand what their specific need is and then you have to help them grow within it. That period that they are in band or a music class, they are part of a group of students who learn to respect and appreciate them as they are and for the gifts that they have. Students in a class setting learn to communicate within a group of peers with a new language.
The Interpretation of Music
Interpretation means you have to understand why you feel a certain way, and in the land of middle school human beings, that’s not something that happens often. Interpretation gives meaning to something that is otherwise meaningless. Musical interpretation provides a foundation for understanding new experiences. This understanding will certainly grow with each student as they grow up. By interpreting music with a group of their peers, each student is encouraged to make sounds like other people. This can be encouraging and empowering, and to help them fit in, not only inside the walls of the music classroom, but also outside the classroom. Each child has something inherently inside them, and this inherent gift is something they can share with one another, regardless of the background or cultural differences these children have. Music is the great unifier.
The Benefits of Music Education
Although some children excel in private music lessons, a group setting tends to be more effective. If a child wants to learn how to sing, encourage them to join a choir. If your child wants to learn how to play trumpet, ask if their school has a band. Children learn together so it makes sense that they would learn music and the great interpretation of human emotion in a group setting as well. It will allow them to experience togetherness while learning at the same time. Music’s profound effect can outlast any other phase that a child journeys through. Music teaches us basic human understanding, struggle, empathy and team work, regardless of background. We all have it inside of us, and we need only to foster that which already exists, and to use it as a tool to bring children together to grow in love and compassion for one another.
How Music Became a Part of My Life
The first CD I owned was the soundtrack to Gladiator. As a 12 year old with a pencil as a baton, I stood proudly in my pajamas with a locked door conducting the would-be symphony in the shapes on my wall. I knew every breath, every pause, and every hesitation of a bow. In the moments I was conducting, I was a magician. I felt what the musicians felt and knew what they knew. 12 years old. Magic. Friendships with the miniscule etchings on a CD. When Sunday mornings came around and it was time to sing in the choir, I’d look around at the wrinkled hands fumbling through hymnals and opening peppermints before service, and then we would breathe together and make music together. My 12 year old lungs along with the 80 year old lungs, in that moment, were living for the exact same reason; to praise, to sing, and to make art. I could feel the camaraderie and as a faith-based human, music is part of my story, and possibly part of yours.
For more information on this topic, be sure to read The Correlation Between Music and Learning.
Source: Adagio for Strings
Picture Credit: Pixabay