Friday, 20 December 2013

Why is music taught in schools?


The importance and relevance of teaching music has been long been recognised.  The Greek Philosopher Aristotle states;  "Music has a power of forming the character and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young."

Many school and teachers recognise the research and evidence that the teaching of music develops skills and improves overall academic progress and performance.  It stimulates the imagination and creativity.  Increasingly schools are developing musical experiences across the whole curriculum using local and national music projects and programmes; some schools are fortunate enough to have a specialist music teacher whose role is not just to teach the children but also to support the non specialist teacher. 

Music in the curriculum gives children opportunities to develop their listening skills.    It encourages them to develop their concentration skills, recalling information, memorising tunes and words. In addition, those children learning to play an instrument develop resilience and perseverance in mastering their instrument.  Literacy and language skills are also developed; the singing of songs encourages phonetic awareness and reading skills are strengthened not just through the repetition of words and rhyme but also through exposure to texts that are rich in vocabulary, imagery and emotion.  It is arguably important that children learn songs from their own heritage and research is reflecting that young children are not familiar with the nursery rhymes and songs that were widely known a generation or two ago. Music is a precise and exact art and the learning of formal music encourages development   of maths through spatial awareness.  It is rhythmical and the notes that a musician reads, plays or writes are arranged in sub-divisions and consequently supports an understanding of fractions.  The repetition of musical phrases encourages the recognition of sequences.  The National Curriculum music syllabus uses computer programs and so ICT skills are also developed.  Participation in music lessons develops physical co-ordination and research has shown that it can result in improvement in handwriting.  Some teachers use music in the classroom as brain gyms, giving the children a quick break from their learning whilst at the same time stimulating their brains so that they can return to their learning reinvigorated and energised.

Using music to teach R.E, history and geography has a huge potential to open minds and understanding of other times and places. Throughout history, musicians have expressed their opinions of their political and social situations through music; some openly such as Band Aid's 'Do They Know It's Christmas' and some more covertly  eg Verde's 'Hebrew Slave Chorus.'  The reflection of public feeling and unity through music is expressed by Madonna when she sings, "Music brings the people together."  Teaching children about music from the past and from different places develops an understanding of diversity and global awareness;  encouraging global citizenship.

Music provides opportunities for children and adults to participate in their communities and even further field.  Singing or playing with others requires collaboration and communication to work together as a team.  Some are able to develop their leadership skills by encouraging their peers or helping to arrange rehearsals etc. Participation in musical events, whether as a soloist or a member of a choir develops confidence and a sense of pride in themselves and others.  The formalised notation of music is universal and musical terms are generally written in Italian so musicians who can read music are able to share and play together a piece of music even if they do not speak the same language!  "Where words fail - music speaks." (Hans Christian Andersen)

Would you like to live in a world without music?  Learning music has value for all and not just children.  The majority of people find music enjoyable and relaxing.  Music should be taught because it not only encourages academic progress, developing creativity and stimulates our imagination; it should be taught because it provokes in us an instinctive, primal emotional response.  This emotional response can give you a sense of beauty, stimulate our compassion,  broadening our sensitivity to others and even awaken our spiritual awareness.  Physically music has proven to slow brain waves, decrease blood pressure and pulse and relax muscles.  You may have experienced this when you have sat down and relaxed to a piece of music, or sung a lullaby to a young child.  Plato, another
Greek philosopher, writes; "Music is a moral law.  It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind and life to everything ... Without music, life would be an error."

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