What stirs the soul, uplifts, inspires, and speaks in ways that words alone cannot do? People have enjoyed it since the beginning of time in celebrations, ceremonies, in solitude, and for just pure enjoyment. This is the gift of music of course.
Indeed, it might be said that we can't live a full life without music. It enriches our lives each and every day. Whimsical humming and whistling, background melodies in television and movies, comforting lullabies sung to a sick or sleepy child, singing with the radio, holiday carols, stories told through song in the theatre, and hymns of worship all have the capacity to bring us comfort and joy whether they are somber or upbeat. What a better time to reflect on the language of music during "Music in our Schools" month?
Schools are not just about readin,' writin,' and 'rithmetic. As important as those are, the fine arts help students to develop into more well-rounded individuals. A designated time to call attention to the importance of music education in schools began in New York State in 1973. After the idea gained popularity and support, in 1985 the National Association for Music Education declared the month of March as "Music in Our Schools Month" throughout the United States. Celebrated every year, its goal is to put emphasis on the benefits of music education and to showcase young talent.
OBSERVER Photos by Mary Deas
Fourth-grade students at Fredonia Elementary School work in cooperative groups to figure out a song “by ear,” perform it on bell sets, and then transcribe it into musical notation. Top: Pictured left to right: Matthew Linder and Jack Fortna.
Bottom: Pictured left to right: Bethany Bulera, Kylie Stanton, and Emma Willebrandt.
Music education is much more than a sing-along. Students can learn and acquire many skills in a comprehensive program.
At the elementary level they create, perform, and participate in music through singing and playing instruments. In singing, they learn how to control their voice, enunciate, and harmonize.
They perform rhythm patterns and songs on such instruments as the recorder and bell sets. Students also create sound compositions using instruments, vocal, and environmental sounds. Music notation and reading are part of the curriculum, as well knowing the characteristics of each instrument family and its members. Comparing and contrasting various musical styles and a general appreciation of music from around the world are also part of an extensive program.
Opportunities for students to participate in music at more advanced levels beyond basic readiness and appreciation are available in many schools. At Fredonia Central School, students may begin string lessons at grade four and band at grade five. As their skills increase, they may continue through middle school and high school in orchestra, band, and chorus. When music education is present, it provides an avenue for those with inherent musical talents to be discovered and developed; another dimension of "being smart" or intelligence that is sometimes overlooked in the world of testing with emphasis on reading and mathematics.
Creative problem solving is just one of the added benefits, or "side effects" of music and music education that can transfer to other areas of the school's curriculum and in life. In social studies, students have a greater understanding of history and cultures from the music they have studied. They make connections in science and mathematics from the organization and types of notes. Language is enriched in both vocabulary and genre. Students gain confidence in themselves as they perform to an audience and express themselves. Perseverance and discipline are honed as they spend much time in learning and perfecting a piece of music; a skill that is certainly necessary in other walks of life as new things need to be learned.
Albert Einstein, certainly a genius, said, "If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music."
Not everyone becomes a Mozart, but everyone can enjoy music. It is a world-wide language that inspires and comforts us. It expresses love, hope, and joy. It stirs the soul. Indeed, such sentiments expressed by one high school student in an essay about the role of music also said, "We can't live a full life without music."
Make it a good week and enjoy your own music.
Mary Burns Deas writes weekly for the OBSERVER. Comments on this article can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org